Democratic leadership styles encourage team members to participate in the decisions which need to be made. It creates a form of shared leadership where each team member is invited to share their knowledge, experience, or opinion about a project or situation. Then, once all the feedback has been heard, the leader will then make the necessary decision.
These leadership styles allow for new ideas to be shared openly, without any judgment. Leaders using this style are wanting a diverse set of creative ideas which incorporate perspectives other than their own. Instead of having one person make all the decisions, everyone can have a say in what happens if they wish.
There are some big advantages and disadvantages of democratic leadership styles to think about, so here are the main key points.
List of the Advantages of Democratic Leadership Styles
1. It is a leadership style anyone can practice.
Democratic leadership styles are an option for everyone. Even leaders who find themselves in coercive situations can still invite opinions or perspectives in to evaluate all possible outcomes. When this style is employed, the team environment benefits because people feel like their opinions and perspectives matter. Although there may be concerns if the team wants to go in one direction and the leader another, the sharing of information benefits all.
2. It helps to solve complex problems.
Leaders wouldn’t be brought into their role if they didn’t know how to solve problems. There is a difference, however, in being able to solve a problem and solving it with the best possible solution. Using democratic leadership styles, a leader can tap into the creative resources around them, finding innovative new methods they may not have readily seen if making decisions on their own.
3. It builds team-based relationships.
People who work with leaders that use democratic methods tend to form closer relationships with those in charge. Those relationships are necessary because without them, there would be no team loyalty. The team feels like they are in situations together, solving problems, and everyone works harder to make sure something positive is available at the other side. Over time, as these relationships develop, the organization benefits from the constant back-and-forth of feedback.
4. It makes honesty a top priority.
With a democratic leadership style in place, leaders come to their teams with an authentic problem that needs to be solved. There are no “what ifs” or “hypotheticals” presented at the team meeting. When an honest issue is being addressed, team members feel more engaged with the process. It connects them on a personal level to the company. It creates a level of equality in the workplace that other leadership styles struggle to create.
5. It improves the relevant knowledge of the team.
Because each person is given a chance, if they wish, to contribute their own experiences and knowledge to any given situation, every other team member is able to benefit. Knowledge comes from shared information that is offered in relevant situations. Team leaders improve the over capabilities of their team through democratic leadership styles because every situation becomes an opportunity to learn.
6. It gives team members a look at the bigger picture.
In many workplaces, the entry-level employees are not always privy to the long-term goals or vision that an organization is pursuing. Through democratic leadership styles, it becomes easier for everyone on the team to see what is going on. Even when there is dissent within the team, there is common ground present because everyone is working toward the good of the company. This encourages each person to evaluate more options, creating a stronger bond toward future goals.
7. It creates higher levels of job satisfaction.
When people feel like their experiences matter, then it gives them more personal satisfaction over the work being done. The process fosters passion, which improves the quality and quantity of work in some employees.
List of the Disadvantages of Democratic Leadership Styles
1. It can cause disharmony if it is misapplied.
The goal of democratic leadership styles is to give every voice a platform. Some leaders may choose the opinions of one person over the rest of the team on a consistent basis, often for valid reasons. When that occurs, the other team members may feel like their experiences or opinions don’t matter, so they stop sharing them. Over time, this disharmony can cause some people to feel under-valued, so it reduces their productivity.
2. It can cause leaders to start fence-sitting.
Democratic leadership styles can also stop a leader from making an immediate decision, even if a choice must be made immediately. The democratic process requires them to defer to their team. When time is short, making decisions can be difficult using this leadership style because every team member still gets a chance to weigh-in on the process. Instead of moving one way or another, the team just sits on the fence, waiting for a choice to be made.
3. It may never reach a true consensus.
Even with multiple levels of feedback and experience offered, the democratic leadership process doesn’t always come up with a true consensus. The leader will be asked to make a choice from the best available options or go on their own path. In many circumstances, the discussion period with this leadership style becomes a waste of time because the leader is forced to make decisions on their own anyway.
4. It struggles to offer a clear definition of leadership.
Democratic leadership styles tend to frame equality above any other perspective within the team environment. Each team member is equal to the other, including the leader. There are just different roles that each person fulfills. When the lines of leadership are blurred and everyone feels like they can have a say in what is going on, then the lack of structure can become a disruption to the workplace.
5. It does not always offer a positive outcome.
As with any other leadership style, a democratic leader is looking for options. Although there are more options available in these styles, that is still not a guarantee that the right choice is going to be made. Some leaders even allow the majority to make the decision on their behalf, which further increases the chances that an incorrect decision would be made.
The advantages and disadvantages of democratic leadership styles offer a diverse set of opinions that may or may not be the correct path to take. The leader must be able to determine the best possible choice, then influence their team to follow their lead. When successful, it creates a positive workplace with high morale. When it isn’t successful, the churn rate can be just as high as any other leadership style.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.