How To Adopt a Democratic Leadership Style As A New Manager
Why is democratic leadership so popular? Here are its pros and cons for the workplace, and loads of real life examples.
For Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico, “CEOs and leaders have to be lifelong students.”
If you’re heading into a role like CEO, or simply are a new manager, your educational leadership curve may seem frightening at first.
Where do I start? How do I apply everything I’m learning? What if I’m not good enough?
These are all questions you’re probably struggling with at the moment, which is why we aim to answer them at Krauthammer. Our team is dedicated to sharing new learning tools with you and making sure you can apply them in real-time.
One of the ways to succeed as a new manager is to learn the ins and outs of leadership styles, so you can select the one that suits you the best.
For example, charismatic leaders get the backing of the company based on personality traits like optimism and compassion.
Directive leaders make executive decisions to lead the team to success. A visionary leader can galvanize the teams around a single vision.
In essence, there are multiple styles of leadership, and each workplace needs a different one.
And in this article, we’d like to talk about one of the most popular leadership styles: democratic leadership.
In fact, it’s so popular that some of the most successful countries in the world base their politics on the fundamental idea behind democratic leadership:
The distribution of power and equality between people.
- But what does this mean in a corporate setting?
- How can you decide when this leadership style is right for your team?
- And what are some tools you can start using to adopt a democratic leadership style?
This article will explore these themes and answer your questions. And, to kickstart your leadership training, we are offering you our Manage your Mindset e-book at the end of this article.
What is democratic leadership?
Source: Indra Nooyi
Democratic leadership is a leadership style that encourages participation between employees, managers, and the team.
As part of the theory of participative leadership, democratic leadership favors:
- creativity, and
As a workplace manager, what does that mean for you?
Well, the more team members involved in the decision-making, the more ‘democratic’ the environment. As a leader, this means listening to your team, and participating by leading the final decision yourself.
This is because unguided participation could lead to chaos.
But why can this happen?
Picture a science class in high school. The teacher is explaining an experiment while still taking ideas from the group.
They welcome the students’ ideas, and from there guides the group in executing the final experiment. However, if the teacher were to just let the students run the experiment entirely by themselves, this could lead to burnt hair or spilled chemicals.
Source: Left to right, Obama, Gandhi, Mandela
Flash forward a decade later and these young scientists are the experts that democratic leadership relies on to succeed.
Yet, it’s still important for the leader (in high school this is the teacher) to make the final decision based on expert insights.
According to a study on job satisfaction in teaching, the best-performing schools use more democratic leadership styles (67%).
So while democratic leadership encourages participation, this is still a leadership style that applies certain rules and managerial behaviors to work.
Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.
Advantages and disadvantages of a democratic leadership style
Advantages of democratic leadership
Encourages diversity of ideas
Democratic leaders thrive off hearing people’s opinions, ideas, and constructive feedback. According to Asana, having a diversity of ideas also contributes to:
- Unique problem solving
- Creative solutions
- Participatory environment
Promotes more employee commitment and engagement
Democratic leaders need to engage their staff in order to hear their opinions in an environment that promotes creativity and idea-sharing.
Not only that, but in democratically-led workplaces, upskilling is an important element of being a good leader. Upskilling can mean:
- Providing training
- Providing access to learning tools
- Performing a skills gap analysis
- Mentoring, guiding, or sharing workplace learning
Can lead to fruitful collaboration between employees
Furthermore, democratic leadership is team-focused. It promotes a culture based on open, transparent communication.
And what do you think happens when employees feel included in the decision-making process?
Let’s imagine you’re an advertising agency working on a chewing gum ad. You need just as much input from the leadership (e.g., the brand and board) as you do from the specialists (music, design, actors, voice-overs, etc.).
Else, you might end up missing the spot with the messaging, and seeing your ad underperform.
The same applies to corporate working places. Having buy-in from your employees means the final decision will be more trusted, more cohesive, and employees will feel part of a unified vision.
This, in turn, encourages your employees’:
Builds trust and confidence in your leadership style
Trust is the cherry on top of democratic leadership. Traditionally, trust is the motivator that will lead to:
- Higher employee engagement
- Less absenteeism
- Career and company growth
- Boosted morale in company culture
Because when employees are part of the decision-making process, and feel like they are given trust, they will also be more inclined to see their ideas come to fruition, and trust the outcome more.
And because building trust is also about your mindset as a manager, at Krauthammer we support you in building your leadership mindset by bringing out the best in you. After all, your results are determined by your behavior, and your behavior is determined by your mindset.
Get a start on it by downloading our e-book at the end of this article.
Disadvantages of democratic leadership
Decision-making may be slower
How many brainstorms are too many brainstorms? How many discussions and meetings are enough to take action?
As democratic leaders are constantly listening to input from many voices, this could affect their decision-making time.
So how do you ensure this doesn’t happen to you?
Try techniques for streamlining collaborative sessions. For instance, speed dating for meetings. At Krauthammer, we have a wide range of tools you can use to make corporate brainstorms more effective and engaging.
You may feel overwhelmed
Democratic leaders are more successful when working with skilled workers or experts in their field.
Which reduces the effectiveness of this management style if you are working with people who lack the right experience or skills in their jobs.
That’s why it’s important to understand which leadership style is the optimal one for you. And not just for your own benefit, but for your team’s and company’s.
Especially with burnout for new managers on the rise, it’s crucial to perform a skills gap analysis, listen to your team, and only from there decide on the right leadership style.
It also helps to give yourself enough time to train for each leadership style. This will help you avoid a feeling of overwhelm, by getting the right training at the right time.
How do you adopt a democratic leadership style?
You’ve talked to your team and performed the necessary steps to understand which leadership style is the best one for you.
For democratic leadership this means:
- You have a team of skilled workers.
- Your employees want to be heard and have creative solutions.
- You are confident that participation will lead to success.
The decision rests: A democratic leadership style is the one for you. Hooray!
But wait, how do you start employing democratic leadership in your managerial style?
Here are some tips to get you off your feet. Remember: These are just the tip of the iceberg. For more in-depth training and 1:1 coaching, our Krauthammer team is here to help.
One of our new manager trainees reported,
“[Krauthammer Management training] helped me obtain a managerial post while making me feel competent in this new role… I now have an understanding of how to overcome challenges and best succeed as a manager.”
3 behaviors to get you started with a democratic leadership style
Mastering the art of delegation
It’s tempting to step in and take control when you see someone in your team stumble, right?
But to be a democratic leader you have to relinquish control. Let your staff make mistakes so they can learn solutions to the mistakes themselves.
A small stumble doesn’t mean the person can’t find the right way for themselves. In most cases, they will easily recover.
Delegation is a great way for you to serve the development of people in your team.
Having constant open feedback lines
Implement an open-door policy! Get people talking, not just to their manager (i.e., you), but to each other.
Integrate official feedback sessions with Human Resources, so that there is another person that staff feel comfortable giving feedback to.
Most importantly, communicate, listen, and always lead by example.
Tear away the stigma attached to risk-taking. Being creative is about thinking outside the box, and going with the ‘no idea is a bad idea’ premise.
And don’t micromanage! It’s better to support that tasks might not get completed in your time. Do instead let your team complete tasks on their own.
Once again, this step is about letting people stumble so they learn to pick themselves back on their feet. This is an important mindset for democratic leaders to have.
Is a democratic leadership style the right one for you?
Source: Steve Jobs, 1990
Did you know that Apple almost failed as a company in the mid-1990s?
Steve Jobs started off as a charismatic leader leading to Apple’s initial success. But when he changed his tact to autocratic, the company went downhill.
Ten years later, Jobs came back after learning about leadership styles. He decided to adopt a democratic leadership style – and the rest is history.
Even the most successful leaders in the world have to learn the ropes.
Where does that leave you?
Well, if you think a democratic leadership style is for you and you want to start learning more, now is the time.
Read the material you need, practice the tools you can use to apply your knowledge and get the right kind of training to take this into real life.
Learn to manage your mindset and be a great leader! Download your copy below.