Have you ever been on a team where everyone’s opinion matters, no one is excluded from the big decisions, and creativity is highly encouraged? In some work environments, dynamics like this can significantly benefit an organization and company culture. In others, shared leadership like this can have many questionable downsides.
Because each team is uniquely comprised of individuals with varying levels of expertise and motivations, it is crucial to understand how your team best operates and which style of leadership is most appropriate to those needs. In this article, we’ll discuss the democratic style of leadership—a fundamental type of leadership seen frequently throughout history and in modern-day organizations.
What is democratic leadership? Our definition
Democratic leadership theory is commonly seen throughout businesses, schools, and government organizations. Our democratic sales leadership definition includes any type of management style that utilizes participative leadership by allowing multiple members of the organization to participate in the organization's decision-making processes.
So what is a democratic management style?
To dive deeper into what is democratic management, we must understand participative leadership. In this style of leadership, group members are invited to participate in open discussions, share ideas and brainstorm with one another, and aid in coming to decisions. Although participation is greatly encouraged, leaders are still present to offer guidance or support and make any final decision. Teams that operate under this management style often experience higher employee morale and empowerment and often more creative solutions and problem-solving– thanks to a free flow of ideas and open discussions in the workplace. Therefore, a democratic style of leadership is typically viewed as a very effective sales leadership style.
What are the advantages & disadvantages of democratic leadership?
Being as effective as it is, there are many benefits of democratic sales leadership. However, as with any other type, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Democratic leadership advantages
Higher employee engagement
By involving team members in the decision-making process, welcoming a free flow of ideas from all, and encouraging healthy debate and discussion, teams under democratic leaders are often highly-engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and growing complacent, group members are participative, involved, and invested in daily decisions and the workflow.
Team members are empowered in their roles
Because everyone is engaged and participative in the work environment, team members are empowered and confident in their roles and abilities. By playing such an active role in the team, members will feel that their hard work is valued, acknowledged, and appreciated. Instead of feeling lost in the mix or like their work is meaningless, employees are empowered by their participation and confident in their contributions.
Creativity is encouraged
When team leaders encourage creative ideas from their people, there is greater opportunity for innovation, efficient problem-solving, and organizational growth. Great leaders understand the strengths of their team. Whether delegating based on those abilities or encouraging members to explore and meet their potential, they allow space for creativity, group brainstorming, and ideating on new thoughts and creative solutions.
Disadvantages of democratic leadership styles
Decisions are made slowly
The more people that are involved in the decision-making process, the longer it may take to reach a final decision. Although there are many benefits to looping others into this process, the democratic process may not be the best match if time is of the essence.
Outcomes aren't always good
Democratic sales leadership works when the involved group members are knowledgeable and competent in their roles and abilities. If the involved people lack the expertise to contribute positively, decisions may be poorly made, and outcomes will suffer.
Leadership responsibilities lack clarity
Sales leadership responsibilities may become ambiguous with multiple people involved in making decisions, sharing ideas, and problem-solving. Communication may also suffer, and group members may struggle in understanding their roles and completing the necessary tasks.
When is a democratic style of leadership likely to be effective?
Democratic sales leadership is likely to be effective when everyone involved is knowledgeable, skilled, and competent in their roles. Without the ability to contribute meaningfully, the participation of group members won’t be effective. Additionally, a democratic approach is best suited in work environments with no major time constraints: the democratic process requires input from others, discussion, voting, and planning before decisions can be reached.
Finally, employing the democratic process is effective in situations such as those that impact the team and company culture— where the opinions and needs of multiple parties should always be considered before the final say. Giving team members a voice in these decisions can positively impact engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.
What are the characteristics of democratic leadership style?
Democratic leadership traits include a willingness to listen to the ideas and opinions of others, a high value placed on creativity and brainstorming, and a welcoming attitude towards the contributions of group members in the decision-making process. Qualities of democratic leaders often include open-mindedness, excellent communication, and an inclination towards teamwork. This type of sales leadership requires influential leaders who inspire followers' trust and can motivate others towards action. When executed correctly, the advantages of democratic leadership can be transformational for team building, company culture, and workflow.
Democratic leadership examples
Out of the different leadership styles, this type is seen most commonly in a wide range of settings. Throughout history, democratic leader examples can be found in education, government, and businesses alike.
Famous democratic leaders from history
The history of democratic leadership can be seen as early as ancient Greece, considered by many to be the birthplace of Western civilization. From there, democratic leadership style examples can be seen influencing governments and businesses worldwide. An example of a democratic leader isNelson Mandela, who always fought for equality and even included his persecutors in his government after his imprisonment. America’s history is rich with democratic leaders, most notablyAbraham Lincoln, who respected the viewpoints and opinions of others and included many in developing strategies and making decisions in the best interest of the country.
Examples of democratic management styles in business
Some of the most recognizable brands incorporate democratic business approaches into their company strategies. Democratic leaders in business aren’t afraid to recruit more knowledgeable people into their teams to gain their expertise. This approach can be seen in Amazon: in the earlier days, founderJeff Bezos brought in expert computer engineers and implemented a democratic approach, trusting their expertise and ideas to grow Amazon into the multi-dimensional power player it is today. If he hadn’t placed his trust and investment into their ideas, who knows what Amazon would be today?
Our key takeaways on the democratic leadership style
Democratic, or participative, sales leadership is when team members have an equal say in all decisions that may affect them. This inclusive leadership style is successful when team members are knowledgeable and skilled with their contributions or opinions; otherwise, outcomes may suffer. In democratic style leadership, employees are encouraged to participate in discussions, develop innovative solutions, and share openly with other team members. Although it can foster a more honest and inclusive environment, employees can lose trust in their leader if it is mismanaged.
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