Under democratic leadership, the people have a more participatory role in the decision making process. One person retains final say over all decisions but allows others to share insight and ideas.This is often a highly effective form of leadership. People are more likely to excel in their positions and develop more skills when they feel empowered, and people are empowered when they are involved in the decision-making process.
Although it may take some time to achieve full participation from a group, the end result will be rewarding if you can manage to establish a power-sharing environment in your group project. You will find that democratic practices often lead to a more productive and higher quality work group.
Examples of democratic leadership:
Asking all group members for ideas and input.
Voting on the best course of action in a project.
Asking group members to work with their strengths and provide input on how to divide the work.
Enabling members to work at their own pace and set their own deadlines.
Pitfalls of Democratic Leadership
It doesn’t take too much imagination to think of ways that democratic leadership could backfire during a group project. As you probably know, some members of a group will work well on their own and complete all work in a timely fashion. But there are other workers who will procrastinate—and that can lead to disaster.
If you are a natural democratic leader, it might be necessary to learn some traits of the autocratic or bureaucratic leaders and tap into them as necessary. Always have a backup plan on hand!
Pros and Cons of the Democratic Leadership Style
Most of us would like to think that the democratic style could be effectively applied to any group of employees. However, when we start to scratch beneath the surface, the pros and cons of democratic leadership becomes apparent.
Pros of the Democratic Leadership Style
Since employees or followers have an equal say in the decision-making process, they are more committed to the desired outcome. The collaborative environment created by this style often results in more thorough solutions to problems.
This creates an ideal environment for collaborative problem-solving in addition to decision-making. However, this democratic process has its drawbacks.
The democratic leader depends on the knowledge of his followers or employees. If the workforce is inexperienced, this style is not very effective. You simply need a fair amount of experience to make good decisions.
The other drawback of the democratic style is that the collaborative effort takes time. When you ask people for their opinions, it takes time for them to explain what they think and for others to understand what they are saying. If the business need is urgent, then the democratic leader needs to switch styles.
To summarize, the pros and cons of this style are pretty much in alignment – strength also becomes weakness. You get more input, but it takes time. People can share their knowledge, but they have to understand the process first. The democratic leadership style is most effective when you have a workplace that has experienced employees, and you can afford to spend the time necessary to develop a thorough solution.
also see Autocratic Management or leadership