Benefits of democratic leadership
A democratic leadership style will prove beneficial in most work environments. From increased group morale to more employee engagement, there are countless benefits of democratic leadership, such as:
Increased job satisfaction
Due to democratic leadership, employees feel their opinions matter and are valued by leaders. When people feel valued at work, they are happier with their jobs. In turn, companies can expect higher employee retention and increased job satisfaction.
More employee engagement
Democratic leadership requires the team to participate during the decision-making process, which results in high employee engagement. As a result of feeling valued, employees are more likely to engage with their colleagues, other departments, and the company.
Democratic leaders encourage brainstorming, which results in a wide range of ideas. Collaborating and sharing concepts leads to creative problem-solving and new projects. Unique solutions can also keep your company ahead of the competition with out-of-the-box thinking.
Since open dialogue is encouraged in the democratic leadership style, people feel encouraged to speak up. Improved conversations can occur in meetings, brainstorming sessions, or workplace communication. Better communication can lead to smoother relationships across the company.
Challenges of a democratic leadership style
Every leadership style comes with its own set of challenges. While democratic leadership has mainly positive results, some situations can be difficult to navigate.
Workplace dynamics can be difficult to handle, and good democratic leaders need to be ready to manage a lot of personalities. Although working alongside people of different backgrounds makes life interesting, it can be demanding.
Here are some examples of the challenges you may face with democratic leadership:
- Resistance to change: Since every team member puts in time and effort to present their ideas, there may be pushback if the leader does not choose their suggestion. This type of rejection can lower employee morale.
- Power dynamics and hierarchies: Democratic leadership means everyone gets a chance to participate, but that also means there are a lot of ideas to consider. Leaders can overlook some opinions, especially regarding individuals not as outspoken as their peers. Despite best efforts, giving everyone an equal chance can be tricky. Some employees may feel devalued if a leader doesn’t use their ideas.
- Time and resource restraints: As we’ve mentioned, this leadership style is also known as participative leadership because everyone can participate. Effective democratic leadership requires leaders to listen to every employee’s input. Giving everyone the appropriate attention they deserve can be time-consuming, which may result in project delays.
- Drawn out decision-making process: Democratic leadership offers everyone a seat at the table, and it can lead to a time-consuming process. The team needs ample time for meetings and brainstorming sessions, which can slow the decision-making process, especially when tight deadlines loom.
How to implement a democratic leadership style into the workplace
We’ve covered what a democratic leadership style is, as well as the wins and limitations of this leadership style. If and when you decide to use this leadership style in your company, it is a good idea to have a strategy to empower your employees, ensure a smooth transition, and get everyone on board with participative leadership.
Below are some tips to carry out democratic leadership in your business:
Build trust and transparency with your employees
An effective way to foster transparency, especially with new employees, is to embed a democratic leadership style in your company’s onboarding process. Be open about company policies, structure, and communication from the beginning of the working relationship.
Openness will go a long way as your company grows and you work to maintain company culture. As we’ve already established, positive company culture helps increase employee satisfaction and retention.
Encourage employee participation and input
Offer positive feedback when people share their opinions and constructive criticism when you have things to add. Practice active listening so your employees feel heard and valued. When employees are appreciated, they will be more eager to join discussions and share ideas.
Offer leadership development training and resources
Democratic leadership only works if employees participate. So, ensure your employees understand their role in this leadership style.
Provide the team with materials that clearly outline the process, particularly how to communicate in a group setting, so you can set them up for success.
You should also include characteristics of democratic leadership in training materials, especially customer service. Open-mindedness, conflict resolution, and active listening are vital for excellent customer support.
Provide more opportunities for employees
Democratic leadership sets up employees for growth in the workplace. It is the mark of an excellent leader to provide employees the opportunities to take the reins during meetings and brainstorming sessions. Those moments give individuals a chance to hone their own leadership skills.