Democratic Leadership Style

 The democratic leadership style strongly resembles the assumptions of Theory Y. Democratic leaders treat followers as fully capable of doing work on their own. Rather than controlling followers, democratic leaders work with followers, trying hard to treat everyone fairly without putting themselves above followers. In essence, they see themselves as guides rather than as directors. They give suggestions to others, but never with any intention of changing them. Helping each follower reach personal goals is important to a democratic leader. Democratic leaders do not use “top-down” communication; instead, they speak on the same level as their followers. Making sure everyone is heard is a priority. They listen to followers in supportive ways and assist them in becoming self-directed. In addition, they promote communication between group members and in certain situations are careful to draw out the less- articulate members of the group. Democratic leaders provide information, guidance, and suggestions, but do so without giving orders and without applying pressure. In their evaluations of followers, democratic leaders give objective praise and criticism.

The outcomes of democratic leadership are mostly positive. First, democratic leadership results in greater group member satisfaction, commitment, and cohesiveness. Second, under democratic leadership there is more friendliness, mutual praise, and group mindedness. Followers tend to get along with each other and willingly participate in matters of the group, making more “we” statements and fewer “I” statements. Third, democratic leadership results in stronger worker motivation and greater creativity. People are motivated to pursue their own talents under the supportive structure of democratic leadership. Finally, under a democratic leader group members participate more and are more committed to group decisions. A democratic leadership style is effective for U.S. presidents who appoint highly qualified individuals to their cabinet, each of whom has great responsibility for running their respective government departments. While the president has the final responsibility for making decisions, in cabinet meetings the members can share the newest information, debate policy, brainstorm different scenarios, and make better recommendations together. Abraham Lincoln was a U.S. president known for actively listening to his cabinet members and inviting different viewpoints. At the same time, however, he exhibited autocratic leadership in some decision making while leading the country through the Civil War.

The downside of democratic leadership is that it takes more time and commitment from the leader. Work is accomplished, but not as efficiently as if the leader were authoritarian. For example, running staff meetings has sometimes been likened to “herding cats,” because people aren’t always controllable; they have their own ideas and opinions and want to voice them, and consensus isn’t guaranteed.

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