Participative leadership style is also known as democratic leadership style. In this style, the leader or the manager exercises two-way communication. Through this, they aim to establish trust with their workforce.
By developing a bond with the workforce, leaders can raise their morale. This is followed by a plethora of benefits that the organization enjoys from. Participative leadership in the workplace can bring many advantages and disadvantages.
Diving Into Details
When talking about participative leadership style, first we have to think that the leader keeps a code in mind. Since this isn’t laissez faire (we’ll talk about that later in the article), the leader likes to keep things in some order. While that order may not be too strict, it is generally like the following:
The leader chooses to observe all the processes. Now this might not be like an autocratic style of leadership with close monitoring, it is lenient and not imposing. The leader also pitches in his or her opinions and invites other people in the discussion to pitch in their opinions as well.
They also provide information to the group. For example, the leader is the one to reveal to the organization that since workload is increasing, the employees will need to work more. If this was autocratic leadership, the leader would enforce overtime on workers. But since we’re talking about participative leadership style, the process will be different.
How Does it Work?
Someone who is leading the organization may introduce the idea of work from home, which is then discussed and dissected by the employees. The leader further announces that after working throughout the day, employees can leave at their usual time and complete their work from home. If the workers find this idea appealing, they might all agree to it. This is the essence of participative leadership style.
But then, an employee raises their hand and tries to make the idea better. Along with work from home, the employee says that if anyone in the organization is in an emergency-like situation due to which they have to leave work they can complete it from their home.
This idea is not only liked by the employees, but the leader also appreciates it and accepts it. This is called idea sharing, which is quite common in participative leadership style. Thereafter, the leader reiterates what has been decided in the meeting and everyone agrees to it. This is how participative leadership style works in organizations.
While participative style has some obvious benefits, we’d like to shine light on some. First and foremost, when employees are encouraged to pitch in their opinions and ideas, they will be more likely to feel empowered. Feeling empowered can result in better ideas and a happy workforce.
Speaking of empowerment, when employees feel that they are valued in an organization, they may feel that they have to return something to the organization as well. They may do this in the form of better quality work. Better quality work means that the organization’s clients and customers will get to enjoy better products/service.
This will automatically improve the organization’s image and overall productivity. There’s only one road from here on then, which is about making profits for the organization. Maximizing them is what all businesses aim for.
Advantages for Employees
Since this is a leadership style, all of the members who belong to the organization take part in decision-making, it is preferred by workers and employees who want to contribute their opinions in how they are treated in the organization. Therefore, people say participative leadership is democratic leadership, which then makes complete sense.
Furthermore, participative leadership style can also boost the morale of all workers. Not every organization chooses participative style, so this can make workers feel that they are part of the organization, which can then boost their morale.
This will directly affect their relationship with the company. Due to which, they may not leave the company as quickly as they would, which will result in better retention rates for the company. Participative leadership style can actually bring the workplace together.
Now, just like everything else, participative leadership style also has some drawbacks that cannot be ignored.
Participative leadership in the workplace does not work in organizations that require quick results. For example, a leader needs to come up with a decision regarding his workforce in less than an hour. The higher-ups are demanding a new policy or a decision. Calling a meeting, inviting the workforce and then going over options can take a lot of time.
On top of that, there might be disagreement that can further compromise the time limit. This is where participative leadership style does not work that well.
Disadvantages in the Work Culture
Even though employees are free to speak their mind, there might be conformity among them. It may be due to different pressures or simply because the employee is knowledgeable and smart, so disagreeing with them might not look that well. This can affect the effectiveness of participative leadership style.
Another obvious disadvantage is disagreements. In an organization where participative leadership style is being followed, employees will always disagree with each other either over something small or big. This is never a good sign for the organization. When disagreements arise, it usually leads to a lower morale for all employees.
They might not feel too positive about working and people may then take sides. In this scenario, it can be very difficult for the leader to settle the disagreement. Choosing any side could lead to the other side being upset or, if matters get out of hand, then they might choose to leave the organization.
This is a far-fetched scenario, but it is possible considering that people get too cranky when their opinions aren’t heard, and especially when they think they cannot be wrong.
The Right Path
Then, what’s the correct style of leadership? Is it autocratic where the leader enforces his own rules and decisions and does not ask for feedback at all? Or is it laissez faire where the leader leaves the employees on their own?
Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this question. But yes, there is one way. Studies suggest that leaders should not always stick to one leadership style. If they want to be successful, then they need to switch from one to another, as the situation demands it.
The Bottom Line
Organizations don’t usually choose a new style of leadership every other day but if they think it would help take them forward, then a shift should be encouraged. For example, if the situation asks them to take a decision then and there, then they should choose an autocratic leadership style. This is how successful leaders run their organizations.