Leadership Styles: Democratic Leadership Style
What is it?
The democratic leadership style is a very open and collegial
style of running a team. Ideas move freely amongst the group and are
discussed openly. Everyone is given a seat at the table, and discussion
is relatively free-flowing.
This style is needed in dynamic and rapidly changing environments
where very little can be taken as a constant. In these fast moving
organizations, every option for improvement has to be considered to keep
the group from falling out of date.
The democratic leadership style means facilitating the
conversation, encouraging people to share their ideas, and then
synthesizing all the available information into the best possible
decision. The democratic leader must also be able to communicate that
decision back to the group to bring unity the plan is chosen.
When is it Used?
When situations change frequently, democratic leadership
offers a great deal of flexibility to adapt to better ways of doing
things. Unfortunately, it is also somewhat slow to make a decision in
this structure, so while it may embrace newer and better methods; it
might not do so very quickly.
Democratic leadership style can bring the best out of an
experienced and professional team. It capitalizes on their skills and
talents by letting them share their views, rather than simply expecting
them to conform.
If a decision is very complex and broad, it is important to have
the different areas of expertise represented and contributing input –
this is where democratic leader shines.
Good fits for Democratic Leadership:
- Creative groups (advertising, design): ideas need to flow in creative environments to find create new concepts and designs.
- Consulting: when paid to explore problems and find solutions,
your role will be to explore the possibilities in depth, and that means
there has to be a great deal of exploration and open discussion.
- Much of the Service industry: new ideas allow for more flexibility to changing customer demands.
- Education: few places need to be open to different ideas than education, both by educators and their students.
How to be effective with this position:
- Keep communication open: If the marketplace of ideas is going
to be open for business, everyone needs to feel comfortable enough to
put their ideas on the table. The democratic leadership style thrives
when all the considerations are laid out for everyone to examine.
- Focus the discussion: It’s hard to keep unstructured
discussion productive. It’s the leader’s job to balance being open to
ideas and keeping everything on-topic. If the conversation begins to
stray, remind everyone of the goal on hand and then steer it back. Make
sure to take note of off-topic comments and try to return to them when
they are pertinent.
- Be ready to commit: In the democratic leadership style, you
get presented with so many possibilities and suggestions that it can be
overwhelming and difficult to commit. But as the leader, when the time
comes, you have to choose and do so with conviction. The team depends on
the clear and unambiguous mandates to be committed.
- Respect the ideas: You and your team might not agree with
every idea, and that’s ok. It is important, however, that you create a
healthy environment where those ideas are entertained and considered
--not maligned-- or the flow of ideas will slow to a trickle.
- Explain, but don’t apologize: You want the advocates of the
solutions that were not selected to understand that their thoughts were
considered and had validity, but that ultimately you had strong reasons
to go a different direction. It’s important that the decision be
communicated, but you should not apologize for deciding on what you
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To learn about styles other than democratic leadership style, click here.