Leadership Styles- The Participative Leader

Posted on February 19, 2010


Team Leadership, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Also known as democratic leadership, participative leadership is the most common form of leadership practiced in the corporate world and political scene. The participative leadership model favours decision making by a group. In this model, the leader consults his team and seeks their opinion, making the decision subsequently. Compared to the autocratic leadership model, this model allows the views of the team members to be heard and encourages team members to participate, hence its name. It is worthy to note that in this style of leadership, the decision is still made by the leader, only that it is based on opinions and perspectives from the team as a whole.

Participative leadership is successful as a leadership style that allows an all rounded decision to be made. It allows a team to make a decision on the matter together. Often, a leader would seek the opinion of the team and possibly encourage discussion and debate to stimulate the thinking process of the team. This way, the every member of the team would feel that his views are being heard, and even if their views are not accepted, they know that it was for a reason and not merely overlooked or brushed away. This, according to Patrick Lecioni in his book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is critical in achieving buy-in, failure of which would result in a team to be dysfunctional.

The mode of decision making of a participative leader is known as the consult-and-decide method. In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins explained that the consult-and-decide method essentially has the brainstorming done by the group, and the decision to be made by the leader. This is as opposed to both the seeking out of ideas and the decision to be done by the leader. The team also has a part in directing the decision by participating in the discussions.

However, participative leadership may fail should the team be relatively inexperienced. For instance, should a team deciding on the appearance of a physical product sold be a company consists mostly of fresh members, the quality of discussions and debate with relation to the final decision would be superficial and possibly even irrelevant, hence making the decision of how the product should be will not be well thought out. Evidently, a precondition for effective participative leadership is to have a team that is sufficiently experienced and competent at their job. Participative leadership is particularly popular in the corporate world as the decisions made often has consequences in multiple levels and would require the inputs and expertise of various professionals. In addition, the pace of events often does not allow a free rein style of leadership where the leader allows the team to reach a consensus with a luxury of time.

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