Great leadership is essential to any company’s success. A good leader not only guides employees, but they also inspire, motivate, and direct them towards beneficial outcomes. Unfortunately, answering the question, “what does leadership mean?” can be complex.
There are many different styles of leadership. Some strategies involve placing a person as the key decision-maker of the team, while others create a more community-driven ecosystem. Here’s your guide to participative leadership.
Participative leadership is a type of leadership in which all members of a group are equally influential in making business decisions. The participative leadership style is built around the concept that companies make better choices when multiple perspectives are considered. Most of the time, decision-making in a participative leadership environment follows these steps:
While the exact process of making a decision in a participative leadership environment can vary, the most important factor is ensuring every member of the organization has a say.
There are various types of participative leadership styles, but the most common options fall into four distinct groups of decision making: consensus, collective, autocratic, and democratic.
Consensus participative leadership
This participative leadership style doesn’t give the “leader” in the group any additional power over other employees or contributors. The leader simply facilitates the discussion, and all members of the team must agree for a decision to be made.
Collective participative leadership
With this participative leadership style, all responsibility is equally placed on every member of the group. The group members are all responsible for the process of decision making, and the outcome. The majority of the group needs to agree for a decision to be made.
Autocratic participative leadership
In this style of participative leadership, the leader holds significantly more power than other members of the team. While input from other staff members is considered, the insights of the leader drive the ultimate outcome.
Democratic participative leadership
Similar to Autocratic participative leadership, this style of leadership gives more power to the leader of the group, but still allows for significant input from the team. Most of the time, decisions will be put to a vote, and the leader will have final say on what to do next.
Participative leadership works best in environments where all members of a team are on the same page when it comes to the values and expectations of the overall company. As you can see from the various types of participative leadership, there are many ways to approach this strategy for business operations.
One example of a participative leadership activity would include a business IT leader approaching a team to ask them what kind of collaboration software they want to use going forward. Rather than just deciding on the behalf of the team, everyone could have a vote, and the software with the most votes may be the one the company chooses.
Crucially, participative leadership can also include cases wherein people in a team contribute to the decision-making strategy, but the leader still maintains control over the final decision.
Participative leadership is often most successful in organizations and companies with defined roles which require very little management and oversight, like in universities or technology companies. Used correctly, the right participative leadership style can lead to advantages like:
Participative leadership won’t always be the right solution for every business. Sometimes it can lead to problems for certain teams. The disadvantages of participative leadership include:
Notably, while some people refer to democratic and participative leadership as though they’re the same thing, many experts argue that the styles are slightly different. While both have firm foundations in the respect of other team members, there is a difference to consider.
Participative leadership is an overarching style of leadership, in which multiple strategies are used to help with decision-making. The decision may be made by the leader, or by the overall group via a vote. Democratic leadership is a type of participative leadership, in which a vote is a more consistent part of decision-making processes.