The democratic leadership style, which is also sometimes referred to as participative style, actively involves employees in the decision-making processes of the organization. While the leader maintains control of the decision-making process and has the final say, workers are given a voice in the decision-making process. One of the more effective leadership styles, democratic leadership encourages collaboration in the workplace and gives workers an active voice in the decision-making process. This type of leadership style can have a range of effects on employees.
Democratic leaders often inspire better cooperation among employees. The democratic leadership style invites workers to discuss the factors that will influence a particular decision. Because of this, workers have a better understanding of the reasoning behind the decisions that are made. When workers believe that their opinions matter, they are far more likely to be committed to the final decision that is made, even if they are not in complete agreement with the decision.
Psychologist Jing Zhou, PhD, of Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Management says there are two critical ingredients necessary for developing innovation in the workplace. These include supportive managers and creative employees. Because one way to encourage creativity in the workplace is to make it easier for workers to share their ideas, employee creativity is greatly enhanced under a supportive democratic leadership.
Democratic leaders often work with their employees to set workable goals rather than dictating what might be unobtainable goals. This can be accomplished through the use of SMART goals. That is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. According to the SMART Goals organization website, an effectively way to achieve SMART goals is by sharing them with others. Rather than leaders dictating goals to workers, the SMART goal process involves open communication between managers and employees to determine the best way to set goals that workers may hope to achieve.
While democratic leadership may be one of the most effective leadership styles, this style is not appropriate for every situation. For example, an industry that is constantly changing may leave managers too little time to obtain input from workers on every decision that must be made. Additionally, certain decisions, such as those that affect worker safety, should be handled by experts and should not be open to discussion.