democratic leadership

1. What is democratic leadership?

In this leadership style, everyone is allowed to participate in brainstorming and meetings and to exchange their ideas freely, and finally, they are encouraged. The Democratic leader decides who is in the group and who can participate in the decisions made. Researchers have found that the Democratic leadership style is one of the most effective types and leads to higher productivity, better help from group members, and increased group morale.

2. Definition of democratic leadership

A leader who follows this leadership style gathers his/her employee’s feedback to make better decisions. This is done to create unity among the main stakeholders. Unlike top-down leadership styles, in which only the leadership team makes decisions, the democratic leadership styles are clear, encourage employees to participate, and are almost visible.

Based on the democratic leadership theory, this ensures that the entire organization is involved in decision-making or, at the very least, is aware of how key decisions are made. The researchers define democratic leadership as a useful one’s because all people voice is heard and will diversify thoughts and opinions.

 3. Characteristics of democratic leadership style

3.1 Idea exchange

Unlike other types of leadership, when a leader adopts a democratic style, he encourages his team members to express their views and try to find new solutions to common problems. The leader will try to listen to all these ideas and will decide on the course of action by considering them.

3.2 Trust and respect among team members

Group participants need to trust each other and the leader. To do this, the leader must be able to strengthen good relationships between his subordinates. Also, to appear as an honest and respectable person. Without this mutual trust, the free exchange of ideas is simply not possible. When a person feels that their opinions are not taken seriously, they usually do not share them with him. For this reason, the leader must ensure that everyone is comfortable with their situation.

3.3 Opening the mind

One of the most important characteristics that any democratic leader should have is the ability to listen to ideas that contradict personal ideas without judging them. The moment a leader does not indicate the invalidity or merit of the opinion, the group’s trust in him is easily broken.

3.4 Decision capacity

All leaders, no matter what style they use, must be able to make decisions under pressure and lead in a group. However, this skill is especially important when using a democratic approach. To use this approach, a leader must be able to gather all the ideas of his team members, combine and review them, and then choose the way forward and create an effective action plan.

4. Democratic leadership style elements

Democratic systems can be divided into 6 types, which are introduced below. Each system can include several of the following dimensions or be based on a single system.

4.1 Participate in work decision making

Decision-making is the organizational leader’s responsibility, and subordinates can only participate in work decisions. This approach is considered a formal partnership structure and is a long-term goal for the business. Also, the direct participation framework is used in this method. Deciding on a schedule for new projects is an example of this type of partnership.

4.2 Consultative participation

In general, consulting partnerships require the deeper involvement of subordinates in a wide range of organizational operations. In this dimension, the ultimate decision-making power is still in the hands of the leader, but subordinates can also express their views before making a decision. The only difference with the first dimension is that it is less effective in decision-making processes. The introduction of a new operating system can be considered as an example of consulting partnership.

4.3 Short-term participation

Organizations can also implement short-term partnership strategies. In this dimension, subordinates are only temporarily involved in the decision-making process. Although their participation period is short, this type of participation usually has a greater impact on the actual results. For example, an organization may introduce a new project and ask the team to influence how the project is implemented. There is a short period to determine processes and goals, after which the decision-making power returns to the leader.

4.4 Informal participation

In an informal partnership, there is no operational channel for subordinates to participate in decision-making. But there will be special situations in which subordinates can participate in the decision-making process. For example, consider a situation where a leader decides to discuss new changes face-to-face with employees. This discussion is not pre-planned and may not have any consequences or requirements for formal participation.

4.5 Employee ownership

In the employee ownership dimension, subordinates can participate in some decisions, but this participation depends on their role in the organization. Employees who hold lower positions usually have fewer options to participate than colleagues who hold higher positions.

4.6 Representative participation

In this model, there is a three-level democratic framework in which there are a leader, representatives, and staff. Representatives have specific advisory power and influence in decision-making and represent the demands of employees. They act as intermediaries between the leader and his subordinates. This type of partnership requires a formal structure. Also, one of its features is indirect employee participation.

5. Pros and Cons of democratic leadership

Based on the democratic leadership theory, democratic leadership advantages and disadvantages are provided below:

5.1 Advantages of democratic leadership

This style has benefits for company leaders and managers. Having the opportunity to constantly discuss issues with employees and hear their feedback makes it possible for critical perspectives to gradually give way to hope and a sense of belonging and importance to the future of the organization.

High efficiency

Because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts, democratic leaders can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Team members also feel more involved and committed to the projects, which makes them pay more attention to the results. Research on leadership styles has also shown that this system leads to higher productivity among group members.

Increase creativity

Democratic leaders can create an environment in which creativity flows because it encourages team members to exchange ideas and innovate. This is especially useful for groups working in industries such as design or marketing.


When team members feel that their opinions are being heard and taken into consideration, they are usually more willing to work and do their best to produce positive results. On the other hand, according to some studies, employees under the supervision of a Democratic leader are more satisfied with their work and claim to feel happy with the tasks they have to perform.

Better relationships among team members

In this leadership style, group participants often feel heard and they work together to achieve a common goal. This makes the relationship between them more positive, greatly eliminates competition, and strengthens camaraderie.

5.2 Disadvantages of Democratic leadership

While Democratic leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it has some potential disadvantages.

Communication errors

When roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic governance can lead to the failure of communications and unfinished projects.

No decision

At times, such as in times of crisis, Democratic leaders may seem weak and undecided. When you need to make quick and decisive decisions, having a credible leader who tells team members what to do to prevent complications will be more helpful. The problem is that, because of the characteristics of Democratic leaders, they are not usually trained to play an authoritarian role. Depending on the characteristics of the group and the situations they face, this may not be a good idea.

A big waste of time

Because a Democratic leader listens to all member’s opinions, the process can be very long if there is a particularly lively discussion or debate.

Wrong decisions

When this style, the most important thing is to get everyone’s opinions heard. However, this means that even people who do not know what they are talking about will be noticed. In some cases, team members may not have the knowledge or expertise to help quality in the decision-making process.

If the leader is not an expert in his field, he may validate ideas that are bad but at first glance seem perfectly valid. This can lead to a variety of problems in the medium and long term. To avoid this complication, a person who wants to adopt a democratic style must know the context in which he works.

Feeling rejected

Leaders who follow this style encourage all people to express their views and opinions freely. However, although this is a good thing at first when someone expresses their opinion, they usually expect their opinions to be taken into account. The problem is that not all members of a team can be right at the same time. So when an idea is rejected, the person proposing it may feel undervalued or misunderstood, which can lead to resentment and lack of motivation.

6. Examples of Democratic leadership

Democratic leadership can be implemented in various ways, of which employee participation through the suggestion system is one example that can be implemented based on different models. The suggestion system as an example of democratic leadership is one of the simplest, most efficient, enforceable, and powerful models of democratic management.

The main purpose of implementing this method is to provide various suggestions to employees and improve the workflow of the organization, which includes other goals and wider areas. Areas such as reducing waste, increasing productivity, reducing production and administrative costs, improving safety, reducing administrative operations, reducing bureaucracy, and improving the quality of work and services are among the benefits of Democratic leadership.