Is the Participative Leadership Style a Good Way to Lead People?
In recent times, within business circles, the “participative leadership” concept has become a catch-phrase. If you follow company blogs about leadership, then you have most likely come across several posts and articles that discuss this specific style of leadership.
The word gets thrown around so much today that you might not have seen a definite description of what it is or heard any sort of conclusive statements about whether or not it is an effective way to optimize performance. However, I try to clear some of the confusion here using the available literature on the participative leadership concept, the characteristics that make it up, its pros and cons, and real-world examples.
What is The Participative Leadership Style?
Participative leadership is a management style that seeks feedback from workers on all or most business decisions. The workers are given specific details about business concerns, and a majority vote decides the plan of action that the organization will take.
Participatory leadership can often be a sluggish form of decision-making, but it has many benefits that can make it the best type of leadership for any group or organization. According to a study published by Walden University, participatory leadership is an efficient way to increase job satisfaction amongst creative and face-to-face teams.
The participatory leadership style, as it includes the whole team, requires the leader to deal directly with his people to develop partnerships and connections; this is almost the opposite of the autocratic leadership style, where the leader appears to concentrate more on problems and make most of the calls without asking for feedback. Participative leadership can be better understood through an awareness of the characteristics that make a participative leader. The characteristics of a participative leader are discussed next.
The Characteristics of a Participative Leader
The word “participative leadership” defines a form of leadership that utilizes a team to get the work done. The team working under such leadership is one where all team members have equal opportunities for feedback and are equally important as far as their value to the team as a whole is concerned.
Essentially, it is a management style that helps different individuals from varying backgrounds and different organizational departments to create a plan and then execute it, all while working together as equals. The following are the key characteristics of a participative leader that allow them to do this.
A major aspect of the participatory leadership style is that it is centered on communication. Communication between leaders and subordinates ensures that ideas can flow seamlessly without conflict of opinions and in ways that make the workplace more productive. A participative leader can do this successfully.
A participative leader is an open-minded person who is open to advise and feedback that will help the organization or community to succeed. They help raise morale by taking suggestions from those under them and then incorporating them into the plan of action.
Participative leaders are always searching for innovative solutions to problems. In other words, they have a curious nature that encourages them to ‘explore more’. They will never leave any idea unvisited and will always look for new ways to do stuff to be on the right side of history.
Encouraging people is what encourages employees to become more comfortable sharing thoughts on their own and presenting the organization with fresh insights. Participative leaders are the masters of this art.
Often, the difference between a successful participative leadership approach and one that causes needless rivalry is collaboration, or rather, the lack of it. A good participative leader uses teamwork to put ideas and people together in distinct ways for various projects. Bringing different perspectives and experiences together will help to accomplish previously unattainable outcomes.
A participative leader keeps everyone satisfied by considering alternative ideas and solutions for getting things done.
In the real world, participative leadership works well by encouraging the team to assist in decision-making, increasing the participation of the team as a whole. With the confidence provided by the leader to his subordinates to find solutions to such issues, the team would feel motivated—they would believe their views are respected and their abilities are recognized which would encourage them to give their best.
Pros and Cons of a Participative Leadership Style
There are advantages and disadvantages to adopting a participative leadership style. The following are the pros and cons of being a participative leader.
- Participation can improve employees’ morale.
- Participation can improve the reliability of decisions.
- Participation can improve the acceptance of decisions by followers or subordinates
- Participation entails complex actions that use time and resources on the part of the leader
- Some leaders fear that their power and authority will be diminished by a participatory style
- Employees may not be open to collaboration or may lack the skills to make an effective contribution to decisions
Participatory leadership helps to make new ideas flourish and makes the whole organization feel like leaders. Participative leadership offers a company countless advantages. A leader who successfully uses this style would be able to include his entire team in running the company. Decision-making becomes a collaborative effort when a participative leader crowdsources perspectives and inputs that utilize each member’s talents, insights, and experience, making the success of the group/organization more likely.
Founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, partner to Newsweek on America’s Most Loved Workplaces, and the author of more than 10 books on best practices in leadership and management, including Change Champion’s Field Guide, In Great Company, and Best Practices in Talent Management. Thought leaders and executives voted him as one of Global Gurus Top 10 Organizational Culture thinkers worldwide, and his feedback and benchmarking software has won HR Tech’s top product of the year award. Louis has been featured in Forbes, Investors Business Daily, Newsweek, MSNBC, Fast Company, and interviewed widely. For more information on Carter’s story see, “Meet the Fixer” and GoSolo.