Participative Leadership: Definition, Meaning & Examples

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Participative Leadership Definition, Meaning & Examples

The participative leadership style is one of the most misunderstood and overlooked leadership types for the average individual. However, deploying this style could give you a huge advantage over the competition.

As the person in charge, you have the power to make all the decisions you can without input from employees. However, this makes the decision-making process authoritarian and decreases employee retention and job satisfaction.

In the end, those who use participatory leadership, also called the democratic leadership style, know teams excel most when the entire team is heard. Such a team will see improvements in productivity, more positivity, better collaboration, and a plethora of other tangible benefits.

In this article, we will articulate what participative/participatory leadership is, how the participative leadership framework benefits you, and how to implement it in your business.

What is Participative Leadership? Definition & Meaning

Participative leaders have unique decision-making style. They are best known for being open to feedback, encouraging employees to participate in decision-making, and uniting their teams behind a common goal.

In a way, the participative leader is the opposite of the authoritarian. They always want effective collaboration, organizational goals that truly relate to employees, and the workplace to be an environment for sharing ideas.

Participative leaders want those with experience and knowledgeable people to play an active role in decision-making. They can recognize that wearing too many hats and not focusing on the specialist’s opinion can hurt their organization.

In an environment with a participative leader, everyone is allowed to share their thoughts and give input. Company culture centers around inclusivity and creativity.

Trying new approaches to solving problems is perfectly fine for the highly adaptable participative leader. When they do make plans, participative leaders keep in mind their employees’ input and expect revisions to be made, too.

Participative Leadership: Characteristics & Key Quality

Participative leadership provides a unique framework for leaders to work within. However, the way they implement this framework can be different from individual to individual. Every team leader has unique goals, and participation in urgent settings differs significantly from participation in the office.

Nonetheless, the majority of participative traits are shared within these types of leaders. They always have the team’s interests at heart and deeply care about inclusion.

Other key characteristics include:

  • Always wanting to have an expert on the company’s board
  • Recognizing that although they may be the person in charge, they still do not know everything
  • Always staying curious and gathering information from many sources
  • Including all team members when hosting regular team meetings
  • Realizing that plans should be centered around the employees
  • Being flexible and allowing revisions to their plans when employees voice their opinions
  • Providing employee empowerment by letting employees have a say in the company’s goals and direction
  • Allowing employees to share ideas openly and honestly, without fear of being shut down

Examples of Participative Leadership

Participation and collaboration can bring many tangible benefits to virtually any company, in any industry or any setting. Very few people can succeed without input from their team and the experts around them.

It is best to focus on gathering as much information from your team and actively listening to them to build rapport and bonds. Ignoring your team may work in some scenarios, but ultimately, this authoritarian leadership style is unpopular for a good reason.

Under certain circumstances, quick decisions need to be made by one person. In these moments, deliberation and participative leadership may not be the best approach to take. Also, some industries require the business owner or leader to have more control over their team.

Other business owners have personal experiences where team members take advantage of their participatory leadership style. Whether or not this style works for you depends on primarily on your team.

Best Jobs For Participative Leadership

An overly faced paced environment with no time to head other opinions is also not the best match. However, many other jobs can give you a chance to show your leadership skills.

Such jobs include:

  • Social worker
  • Factory owner
  • Communications manager
  • General manager
  • Group therapist
  • Research and development director
  • Program supervisor
  • Executive chef
  • Team coach

Advantages and Disadvantages of Participative Leadership

Although every leader strives for perfection, it is important to acknowledge your strategy’s downfalls. As with any other leadership approach, the participative approach to leadership has its flaws. Effective leadership can truly only occur when this is done.

Otherwise, you will not be able to grow as a leader. If you are not sure about whether participative leadership is the right leadership type for your team, consider the following pros and cons of this style:

List of 5 Pros of Participative Leadership

  1. Employees feel heard and valued, which increases their positivity and makes them more willing to collaborate
  2. Develops a sense of belonging to the company, thus increasing retention rates while de reading turnover
  3. The organization feels united as a single group working for the same purpose; strengthens bonds because of this unity
  4. There is no worry about micromanagement and employees have independence over their work as well as control over their future
  5. New, creative approaches can be heard which give the company a competitive advantage

List of 5 Cons of Participative Leadership

  1. Can be seen as slow or inefficient; not well suited for situations where decisions must be made quickly
  2. Since team members can be working instead of sharing their opinions on most matters, profit is lost
  3. Those without enough knowledge on a topic could make radical and weak suggestions
  4. Employees may side with individuals simply because of social pressure, especially if there are cliques in the workplace; takes it difficult to achieve democratic leadership
  5. May get sidelined by goals and ideas that are outside of your intentions which leads to a lack of clarity

Who Is a Good Example of a Participative Leader?

A few of the most recognizable participative leaders include:

  • Indra Nooyi
  • Bob Diamond
  • Jim Lentz
  • Richard Branson
  • George Washington
  • Ginni Rometty
  • Muhtar Kent
  • Bill George
  • Carlos Ghosh
  • Barack Obama

5 Amazing Books That Encourage Participative Leadership Style

1. Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux

Leaders often have to adapt their communication techniques as generations change. What could have worked decades ago may not be the most efficient approach now.

Frederic Laloux details that such drastic changes in human views and outlooks need to have accompanying drastic changes in leadership. Every time humanity progressed, Laloux notes, the collaboration between individuals seems to increase.

In other words, each generation is getting more collectivistic and open to collaborating. Leaders need to harness this power, and Reinventing Organizations teaches you how.

2. The Democratic Leader: How Democracy Defines, Empowers and Limits its Leaders by John Kane

Historically, democracy has been seen primarily as a political system. As a leader, you can apply the same democratic principles and lessons to the workplace. In The Democratic Leader, John Kane outlines how improper democratic leadership could lead to many negative consequences.

He teaches the audience how to avoid the fate of many poorly planned democracies in the past. Kane acknowledges that Devon democratic leaders will be called self-interested merely because of their powerful position. He describes the best responses to these accusations, which will help you maintain positive relations with employees.

5 Amazing Books That Encourage Autocratic Leadership Style

3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

One of the key principles of participative leadership is a collective responsibility and taking action as a team. This requires your organization to be united. However, you must know why your team should unite for your unity to be meaningful.

Start with Why underscores the importance of setting a mission that resonates with employees. Simon Sinek, an entrepreneurial visionary and prolific writer, details how to develop purpose within your organization.

If your team is united behind a common goal, your job as a participative leader will be much easier. It will also bring a sense of purpose and loyalty to your employees.

4. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson

Amy Edmondson poses a key question that many participative leaders think about often. She asks: what is the purpose of meetings if no one feels comfortable speaking their mind? The answer is that they are simply inefficient, time-wasting gatherings if there is no free speech in the workplace.

Edmondson recognizes this fact and aids the audience in developing a workplace that is genuinely democratic and free. Then, your employees will be able to share valuable insights and make meetings worthwhile.

5. Many Voices One Song: Shared Power with Sociocracy by Ted J. Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez

Too many leaders believe that organizations are just groups of individuals. However, the unique perspective of participative leaders allows them to unite teams.

Ted Rau and Jerry Koch- Gonzalez know-how leaders can combine technical skills and social skills to unite teams. When a team is truly united, they are able to accomplish more goals and change the world. Deep care for employee well-being and mutual respect are the first steps outlined in Many Voices One Song.

Frequently Asked Questions About Autocratic Leadership

What is McDonald participating leadership?

McDonald’s is one of the largest employers in the United States. The leadership style of McDonalds managers and executives is far more autocratic and authoritarian than it is democratic. They do not let employees have much of a say in the direction of the organization.

It is rare to find an employee voicing their opinion in the Mcdonald’s board room, too. Thus, Mcdonald’s cannot be called a participative leadership organization. However, individual franchises may have managers who are more democratic than executives.

Is Bill Gates a participative leader?

Bill Gates has a unique leadership style history. In his early years, Gates was an authoritarian leader. He micromanaged his team and set strict rules to ensure the company met his goals and advanced his vision.

Over time, though, Gates realized that being unempathetic and almost ruthless was not the best strategy for leading. So, he began giving more autonomy to employees.

He opened up communication channels and allowed employees to have a bigger say in the company’s future. Now, Gates can be viewed as a participative leader.

How can the participative leadership style be improved?

Participative leaders need to be great communicators. Ensure that you let employees speak their minds and always listen to all opinions. No one should feel unheard. If someone is shy to speak in front of other employees, ensure they can contact you through other channels (like phone or email).

Vision is also necessary for uniting a team. You can improve your team’s unity and motivation by being clear on your mission and the company’s overall goals. Ensure everyone agrees with the mission and feels passionate about their work. If they are not passionate or engaged, open a dialogue to discuss the issue.

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