Democratic leadership is a style of leadership found in human resources theory and participative management. In this lesson, you will learn what democratic leadership is and some of its advantages and disadvantages.
You will have the opportunity to reinforce your knowledge with a brief quiz after the lesson.
Democratic Leadership: Definition
Democratic leadership in an organization involves the redistribution of power and authority between employees and managers to provide employee involvement in decision making.
Features of Democratic Leadership
Let’s start by noting that there is a conceptual difference between leadership and authority. Authority is formalized power conferred upon an individual to engage in certain activities sanctioned by some person or institution with the power to confer the authority. For example, if you are elected to the Senate, the citizens of your state have conferred upon you the power to represent them.
In the private sector, a board of directors confers upon the CEO certain powers to implement board policies.Leadership, on the other hand, can be thought of as the power of an individual to influence others in belief or action. A leader may or may not have formal authority, and someone with authority may or may not lead. In other words, leadership isn’t a position or office one holds but a behavior.Democratic leadership attempts to manage with democratic principles, such as self-determination, inclusiveness, equal participation and deliberation. The following three features characterize democratic leadership:
- Distribution of responsibility – A manager that leads democratically will distribute responsibility among his group to facilitate participation in decision making.
- Empowering group members – Leaders must empower their members so that the members can accomplish their responsibilities. Empowerment includes providing training and education necessary for delegated task completion.
- Aiding group decision-making process – A major role of a democratic leader is to ensure democratic deliberation in making group decisions. This means that a leader should act as a facilitator and mediator between group members and ensure that a psychologically healthy and respectful environment is maintained.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Democratic leadership in the context of managing an organization has some advantages and disadvantages. Let’s talk about some of the advantages. Democratic leadership techniques generally will do a better job creating job satisfaction because it fosters a sense of participation, control and autonomy.
Greater employee participation in decision-making may also lead to greater innovation and creative solutions to problems that will better serve an organization.Democratic leadership does present some disadvantages. A democratic approach to management may not be as efficient as a more traditional, centralized and authoritarian form of direction.
Consequently, it may be more costly to the organization in time and resources. Accountability may sometimes present a problem. When responsibility is diffused among several different individuals or groups, accountability for mistakes or failures may be harder to determine. And some organizations or tasks may simply not be compatible with the type of employee participation required for democratic leadership. For example, consider the effects of democratic leadership in a military unit during combat.
Democratic leadership is an approach to management in which certain democratic principles are encouraged, such as self-determination, inclusiveness, equal participation and deliberation. While the manager in a group may be the only one with formal authority, other members of the group can serve leadership functions by influencing other members’ beliefs and behaviors.
Characteristics of democratic leadership include distribution of responsibility, empowering group members and aiding group decision making. Advantages of democratic leadership include creating employee job satisfaction and encouraging innovation and creative solutions to organizational issues and problems. Disadvantages can include reduction of efficiency and problems with accountability.
View the lesson, then see if you can:
- Distinguish between authority and leadership
- Define democratic leadership and describe its main features
- Perceive the advantages and disadvantages of democratic leadership