Democratic Leadership Style in the Workplace: Pros and Cons |

Democratic Leadership Style in the Workplace: Pros and Cons

Updated February 3, 2023

Democratic leadership is an open leadership style that empowers group members in the decision-making process. If you work in an industry that benefits from open discussion and sharing of opinions, you may want to consider this leadership style.

In this article, we discuss the characteristics of democratic leadership and the pros and cons of this style to help you determine if it’s the right fit for you and your team.

What is democratic leadership?

Also called “shared leadership” or “participative leadership,” democratic leadership encourages each team member to participate in decision-making by sharing their opinions. A democratic leader encourages open conversation and helps their employees set goals, evaluate their own performance and motivates them to grow. Democratic leaders:

  • Encourage group members to share their ideas: The leader asks for and considers employee input. 

  • Engage group members: The leader involves members and encourages them to involve others.

  • Foster confidence: The leader wants employees to feel confident in completing tasks without supervision.

  • Reward creativity: The leader encourages and rewards new ideas from the team.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles (Plus How To Find Your Own)

Characteristics of democratic leaders

Democratic leaders encourage their employees to think creatively and are adaptable to new solutions and changing existing processes. Their direct involvement and transparency often inspire respect and trust from their employees. Democratic leaders are often:

  • Team-focused

  • Flexible

  • Adaptable to change

  • Engaged listeners

  • Honest

  • Communicative

Related: 15 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Pros of the democratic leadership style

Here are some of the most common advantages of democratic leadership:

1. Job satisfaction and commitment

When employees feel included in the decision-making process, they often feel more valued by their employer. This sense of importance can lead to higher productivity and loyalty to the company, which, in turn, can lower job turnover for the company.

2. Greater innovation

Open discussion encourages creativity and innovation. The more people share new ideas, the more existing processes can be improved and updated.

3. Multiple solutions generated

When the decision-making process requires collaboration and multiple opinions, the discussion covers more possible solutions. The group can analyze more aspects of a particular project and find solutions that better address the organization's needs. 

4. Less absenteeism

Employees who find more satisfaction in their jobs are more likely to be absent from work. When employees feel valued, they are more likely to commit to deadlines and even overtime, to complete projects and help their team and company succeed.

5. Team cohesion

Involving people in the decision-making process can help reinforce the company's vision. Everybody is a part of the group's decision and understands the motivations behind this decision. They know they are working towards a common goal. It promotes greater cohesion within the group.

6. Trust between group members

When employees and management have equal decision-making power and access to the same information, it increases the feeling of trust among them. Each group member knows the motives behind their leader's decision and doesn't need to question them.

Related: 9 Types of Collaboration You Can Use in the Workplace

Cons of the democratic leadership style

Democratic leadership can also present some potential disadvantages:

1. Decision-making slows down

It might be more challenging to make fast decisions when the decision-making process requires the input of everybody. The time needed to organize meetings and discussions can be detrimental to business when it necessitates quick decisions or involves deadlines.

2. Performance may falter

Some employees are less able to perform under democratic leadership because they don't like making decisions. They might also have the impression that they work harder than the leader.

3. Leaders can feel overwhelmed

Leaders can find it this style of leadership takes more time and effort when a team consensus is needed. This extra work may contribute to missed deadlines and potential leader burnout.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles (Plus Ways To Develop Your Own)

Implementing a democratic leadership

Here are a few tips you can follow to help you implement democratic leadership in your own company:

  • Decide if it’s the right approach: Although the democratic leadership style can benefit your team in many ways, not every team or project will be compatible with this leadership style. It’s best to take your time before starting each new project to consider which approach will work the best for you and your team.

  • Provide training: Make sure each team member understands how to communicate their opinions and how to listen to other opinions in ways that are constructive for the team. Discuss any ground rules for open discussion before you get started and be sure to ask if anyone has questions.

  • Encourage participation: This leadership style is dependent on each team member participating so make sure everyone feels comfortable with the process. It’s also important to communicate to everyone that their opinions are welcome, even if they disagree with other team members or want to express a new point of view.

Image description

Team members gathered in a common area of their office hold a huddle.


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