Leadership development is a complicated area which involves using different resources and implementing countless styles which encourage organizational flexibility, responsibility and fresh ideas generation process. Not in vain a great number of styles were theorized and researched. One of the most successful group of researchers was headed by Kurt Lewin who identified various styles of leadership in 1939 and contributed to the development of the leadership theory development. The group of scholars singled out the following major leadership styles: authoritarian or autocratic, democratic or participative and delegative or laissez-faire.
Actually, all leadership styles have advantages and disadvantages and the approach to their implementation is frequently situational as the executive may combine personal preference and the perceived needs of the situation being aware of their pros and cons.
In the middle of the two extremes, the autocratic and the laissez-faire leadership styles, there lies the democratic leadership style which allows more participation in the decision making process. The style under consideration is participative or democratic one which is widely supposed to be the most effective leadership style.
According to Leadership Styles by Annick M. Brennen, democratic leadership style is characterized by a structured cooperative approach to decision making which concentrates on group relationships and sensitivity to the people. This type of leadership fosters competence, participation and professional growth while supervision is minimized. Subordinates are free to suggest their ideas, therefore, it promotes job satisfaction and improved morale (Brennen, 2007).
The key point in democratic leadership is that subordinates are engaged in decision making process and consultative leaders gather input from them, they keep employees informed about everything that affects their team work, still the final say in decision making belongs to the leader. Democratic leadership provides high quality and quantity work, as staff responds to cooperation with trust which develops team spirit and high morale. Any democratic leader has to work out plans to assist other staff evaluate performance, gives staff opportunities to shape goals and encourages professional growth, recognizing and appreciating experience and achievement. Promoting responsibilities sharing and continual consultations, the leader allows staff to challenge themselves, encouraging their initiatives he receiving natural feedback results with fewer mistakes and catastrophes. Moreover, this leadership style is a catalyst of creative thinking and reduces employee turnover which consequently reduces tension and has many other benefits for the company. Staff is more committed to the desired outcome; in turn this creates a good collaborative environment (Oates, 2008).
democratic leadership style has definite disadvantages, as the success of the structure functioning depends on the knowledge of his followers or employees. If the workforce is not competent enough, the style cannot be very effective as well. It is also not appropriate in case the time is strictly limited, as lengthy consultations over every decision lead to slowing the process down and missing opportunities. Some staff members may use the procedure of suggestions making in their own interests and propose something that will never be implemented by them. So if the business need is urgent, the democratic leader needs to switch styles.
The democratic style is most effective when the leader has experienced employees and can afford spending time necessary to develop a through decision. The democratic leadership style is the most appropriate in the manufacturing industry where employees can afford giving their ideas on how processes may be improved (Oates, 2008).
It is also effective in professional organizations and non-profit where training, professional and leadership development are accentuated. So called creative industries such as advertising also enjoy the privileges of the style.
In the democratic style there is a balance in the decision making process, as employees and followers are given equal opportunities to participate in it. Though full participation arrangement in group takes time, still the results are rewarding and lead to a more productive and higher quality group work.