Democratic leadership, a style of participant leadership, is a leadership style in which group members take a more participative role in the decision-making process. Employees meet to discuss and resolve issues by giving everyone some opportunity to contribute to decisions. This kind of leadership applies to all organizations, including businesses, schools, and the government. Researchers have found that this leadership style is usually one of the most effective and leads to higher productivity, better contributions from group members, and increased group morale.
Definition: Democratic leadership is a type of leadership in which group members are involved in decision-making.
Democratic Leadership Execution and Approach
This leadership style allows everyone to participate, exchange ideas, and have their opinions heard and encourages discussions. However, the group leader still needs to provide guidance and direction to maintain the goals and objectives being pursued. The leader needs to think about how quickly decisions need to be made, who needs to be involved, and whether these people can agree in a reasonable amount of time. If not, this kind of leadership might make things worse instead of better.
The below chart represents the different leadership styles and where there are on the spectrum between full control and free-rein.
Figure 1: Leadership Styles 
Primary Characteristics of Democratic Leadership Style: 
A few of the fundamental characteristics of the democratic leadership style are:
- Group members are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, even though the leader retains the final say over decisions.
- Members of the group feel more engaged in the process.
- Engagement and Creativity are encouraged and rewarded.
- Embrace teamwork and collaboration
- Encourage feedback
- Importance of transparency and communication
Researchers think that good democratic leaders have certain qualities, such as being willing to change, having a fair mind, and being involved in the process. Strong democratic leaders inspire trust and respect among their followers. These leaders are honest and make decisions based on what they believe is right. They also tend to look for different points of view and don’t try to shut down people who disagree or have a less popular point of view. So, people who follow the group feel motivated to take action and help the group.
Benefits of Democratic Leadership Style:
The primary benefit of the democratic leadership style is that since there is group involvement and discussions, more ideas and thoughts lead to better ideas and solutions. The participants in a group become more involved and committed to projects, making them more invested in the final results. Below are a few of the main benefits.
- Employees’ creativity and inventiveness increase as a result of teamwork
- Absenteeism is lower among employees with a higher performance commitment.
- Employees’ job satisfaction and sense of autonomy have grown
- Better enthusiasm among workers, which leads to an increase in productivity
- Productivity increases because they care more
- Reduce workplace conflict
Downside of Democratic Leadership Style: 
There are a few downsides to a democratic leadership style. These include:
- Can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects during unclear times
- Group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to contribute to decision-making
- Lack of decision-making due to the volume of choices
- Loud minority override
- Side-tracked easily without good leadership to keep the focus
- The difficulty of supervising experts on collaborative teams can be burdensome for leaders
- Team members who believe the best decision is not being made, despite what the majority dictates, are frustrated
How to Lead in a Democratic Way
Democratic leadership works best when everyone in the group has skills and is willing to share them. It is also important to give people enough time to share their ideas, develop a plan, and then vote on the best way to move forward. Because there are so many people involved, setting deadlines can help ensure you get everyone’s input in time to use it. Setting expectations upfront can also be helpful. This clarifies when the group’s input will be sought and which decisions management will make alone.
Other Different Leadership Styles
The best leaders use different kinds of power depending on what needs to be done at the time. There are key leadership traits that are shared by all styles of leadership. But, on top of these other leadership traits, most leaders also have a dominant style. Leadership fall into three groups:
- Authoritative (or autocratic leadership) (or autocratic leadership)
- Participative (or a democratic leader) (or a democratic leader)
- Delegative (or a Free-rein leader) (or a laissez faire leader)
Since then, many other ideas about how to lead have been put forward. These include, but are not limited to:
- Transactional leader: one who leads their team with rewards and punishments.
- Transformational leader: A person who sees a change that needs to be made and gets the group to work toward it.
- Servant Leader: someone who puts the needs of their team ahead of their own goals.
- Situational leader: A person who decides how to lead based on their goals and the situation at hand.
- Charismatic leader: someone who inspires other people by building relationships with them.
- Autocratic leader: is one who makes all the decisions and doesn’t care what the other people in the group think.
- Bureaucratic leader: is one who follows a set of formalized rules and steps.
Frequently Asked Questions About Using a Democratic Leadership Style
What is democratic leadership?
Answer: Democratic leadership is a leadership style in which team members have input into the decision-making process and share responsibility for implementing and evaluating the outcomes of those decisions. This style values collaboration and encourages open communication among team members.
What are the benefits of democratic leadership?
Answer: There are several benefits to using a democratic leadership style, including:
- Increased motivation and commitment from team members, as they feel they have a say in the decisions that affect them
- Greater buy-in to decisions, as team members have had a role in the decision-making process
- Higher levels of creativity and innovation, as team members are encouraged to share ideas and contribute to the decision-making process
- Improved team cohesion and communication, as team members are encouraged to collaborate and work together
What are some challenges of democratic leadership?
Answer: One challenge of democratic leadership is that it can be time-consuming, as it requires input from all team members and may involve multiple rounds of discussion and decision-making. It can also be difficult to reach consensus among team members, especially if there are strong differences in opinion. Additionally, some team members may feel that their ideas are not valued or given enough consideration, which can lead to frustration and resentment.
How can a leader effectively use democratic leadership?
Answer: To effectively use democratic leadership, a leader should:
- Clearly communicate the decision-making process to team members and encourage their participation
- Foster an open and inclusive environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions
- Seek input from all team members, not just those who are the most vocal or assertive
- Be open to considering different viewpoints and finding ways to incorporate them into the decision-making process
- Help facilitate discussions and decision-making, ensuring that all team members are heard and that the final decision reflects the input of all team members.
AcqLinks and References:
-  Nickels and McHugh, “Understanding Business” McGraw-Hill Irwin 2010
-  Website: About.com – Democratic Leadership Style