How it works
Here is how participative leadership works:
While participative leadership comes in several flavors, there is a common pattern that is present in most of these types:
- the leader facilitates the conversation;
- the leader openly shares information and knowledge necessary for decision-making;
- the leader encourages people to share their ideas;
- the leader synthesizes all the available information and solutions suggested by the team;
- the leader comes up with the best possible solution and communicates it back to the group.
Four Types of Participative Decision-Making
There are four types of participative decision-making with democratic (or participative) leadership being only one of them. All of these styles are somewhat similar and have similar advantages and disadavantages. They are
Collective decision-making is a form of leadership style where all decisions are taken by the group, and the responsibility for these decisions are also entirely on the group. One of the characteristics of collective leadership is that during the decision-making process the group must develop clear lines of authority that define the responsibilities of each member.
Democratic or participative leadership encourages participation of all members, but the final decision is taken by the leader. Once the decision is taken, the leader has to communicate it back to the group and resolve possible objections if any.
Autocratic participative decision-making implies that while possible solutions are brainstormed collectively, the responsibility of taking the final decision is still on the leader alone. Autocratic leadership style allows the organization to benefit from the collective input provided by all employees while making decisions reasonably fast.
Democratic and autocratic styles of participative leadership may seem to be very much alike, but the difference is that while autocratic leadership is more goal oriented, i.e. to get results and meet deadlines, democratic leadership is more people-oriented and quality-oriented. The advantage of autocratic decision-making over democratic is that the results are obtained much faster.
Consensus decision-making is a leadership style where the leader gives up control and responsibility of decision-making, leaving it entirely to the group. The decision has to be approved by the majority of the group while the minority of those who don’t agree initially have to agree to go along. In other words, the decision has to be modified to remove any objectionable features so that the minority can agree with it.
Pros and Cons of Participative Leadership
Participative leadership model is very much in vogue these days with many supporters promoting its advantages:
- All of the members of the team feel valued and in control;
- The team tends to perform better because the members are more committed to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization;
- The team performs well even when the leader is absent;
- Increased group morale;
- Decreased competitiveness.
However, there is a number of serious disadvantages to be considered as well:
- The members may feel social pressure to conform to group domination;
- Decision-making may take a long time;
- High unnecessary costs;
Different approaches may be more appropriate for specific situations.
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