A democratic leadership style involves being the head of a team whilst involving all individuals in the decision-making process. Although final decisions are left with the leader, this participatory leadership style welcomes and encourages input from all.

A democratic leadership style is a very popular choice for workforces looking to empower their employees. It promotes teamwork and creativity, leading to an effective and efficient way of completing goals.

Typical characteristics of a democratic leader:

Democratic leaders will share common characteristics, including:

  • Encouragement of group members to share opinions and ideas, making them feel like an important part of the team
  • Showing employees trust and respect, which helps inspire them to contribute, and in turn, earns trust and respect
  • Demonstrates honesty, fairness, creativity and courage when need be.

Benefits of a democratic leadership style

Democratic leadership is often considered the most powerful leadership style. When it comes to identifying potential within a team, it’s this style that is proven to be the most effective.

This is due to the empowerment it gives employees. It makes them feel part of the team when they’re encouraged to be part of decision-making processes. Democratic leadership also promotes creativity and the input of ideas from everyone. Leaders are then able to identify everyone’s strengths and gain knowledge from their staff.

When staff feel like they are being listened to and part of the company rather ‘just’ an employee, it builds commitment and loyalty to the company.

Disadvantages of a democratic leadership style

While the benefits of adopting a democratic leadership style can be remarkable for most businesses, there are times when even this popular style can be ineffective.

For example, a democratic leader may find it difficult to be decisive during times of crisis or when a decision needs to be made as quickly as possible. While input from the team may be preferable, it may prove to be too time-consuming making sure everyone is heard, even more so if there are any disagreements within the team.

This leadership style involves creating an environment where everyone feels confident to speak up, so if an individual feels that their voice is not heard as it was not included in any decision-making, this can cause some friction. Democratic leaders want to be fair and can be made to feel bad when they cannot implement everyone’s ideas.

Democratic leaders may also find it hard working with employees who are inexperienced or not confident enough to participate in decision-making.

Overall, it is important to recognise that the democratic leadership may be one of the most popular styles in the modern corporate world, but that does not automatically make it the best choice in getting the job done. Leaders must evaluate the situation and change their style as appropriate.

Establishing this style in your business

Implementing a democratic leadership style within the workplace can sometimes be easier said than done. First, leaders need to be dedicated to open and honest communication. Trust and respect need to be established amongst everyone and can be gained by being willing to listen to all ideas and accepting them with an open mind, even if it doesn’t suit the current needs of the company. This doesn’t mean a lot of time needs to be spent on ideas that aren’t relevant, but they shouldn’t be dismissed immediately either.

There should be a proper framework in place that clearly communicates the goal or objective. Leaders will also need to ensure that conversations are flowing around these goals or objectives and discussions do not deviate away from the end goal to ensure that time is not wasted.

Finally, democratic leaders need to be transparent in their decision making, clearly explaining to the group the decisions that have been made in a way that everyone understands. It is also good practice to provide feedback, wherever possible, to those whose ideas were not realised and the reason for that.

Learn more with Delphinium

Want to learn more about the different leadership styles and which ones you should adopt? Delphinium’s training courses in Leadership and Management are perfect for further understanding and developing leadership skills in the workplace. We also offer ILM Level 3 and Level 5 in Leadership and Management certification – perfect for anyone in a leadership role with no prior formal training who is wanting to strengthen their skills. Get in touch to discuss what we can do for you and your business leaders.

Other articles in our Leadership Styles Series

What are the different leadership styles?

The Autocratic Leader


For further reading on Democratic Leadership check out this great article from cleverism.com.