A democratic style of leadership is exactly the opposite of an authoritarian leader, in that an authoritarian leader will make all the decisions and a democratic leader will allow others to make the decisions. This is not to say that a democratic leader does not actually lead – an effective democratic leader fosters self-direction, promotes creativity, and encourages others to become leaders. This is attained through constant consultation and effective direction and assistance.
During the 1970’s, interest in improving industrial work practices moved from a hierarchical organizational structure to giving employees more decision-making authority to increase productivity.
Studies from Mayo and later refined by Maslow, McGregor, and Likert (Biddle, 1994) suggested that changing the way workers are treated as a more positive asset rather than ‘hired help’ would result in:
- motivated employees
- a loyal workforce
- high levels of productivity an industrious and harmonious workforce
For example, as a democratic leader, I would not give an assignment where an individual or groups have difficulty finding resources for answers. Instead, this type of leadership style works best when you allow employees to give their ideas to create a more efficient work flow, suggest cost-cutting techniques, use in creative industries such as advertising. A truly democratic workplace is where all stakeholders have effective power and veto over all decisions (Biddle, 1994). However, democratic leadership is not a broad, misguided leadership style.
Instead, it fosters a culture of participation where employees are given responsibilities to challenge themselves, practice self-direction, and creates empowerment through creative thinking in a positive work environment. The democratic leader is the facilitator – he or she makes decisions by consulting the team and maintain control of the group. The democratic leader allows a team to decide how the task will be completed and who will perform each task (Authenticity Counseling, 1997).