Participative Leadership

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

DemocraticLeadershipConcept description

Participative leadership, also known as democratic leadership, is a type of leadership style in which members of the group take a more participative role in the decision-making process.

Everyone is given the opportunity to participate, ideas are exchange freely, and discussion is encouraged. While the democratic process tends to focus on group equality and the free flow of ideas, the lead of the group is still there to offer guidance and control. The democratic leader is charged with deciding who is in the group and who gets to contribute to the decisions that are made.

Some of the primary characteristics of participative leadership include:

  • Group members are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, even though the leader retains the final say over decisions.
  • Members of the group feel more engaged in the process.
  • Creativity is encouraged and rewarded.

Researchers suggest that good participative leaders possess specific traits that include:

  • Honesty
  • Intelligence
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Competence
  • Fairness

Strong participative leaders inspire trust among followers. They are sincere and base their decisions on their morals and values. Followers tend to feel inspired to take action and contribute to the group. Good leaders also tend to seek out diverse opinions and do not try to silence dissenting voices or those that offer a less popular point of view.

Benefits of participative leadership

Because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts, participative leadership can leader to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Group members also feel more involved and committed to projects, making them more likely to care about the end results. Research on leadership styles has also shown that participative leadership leads to higher productivity among group members.

Downsides of participative leadership

While participative leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, participative leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. In some cases, group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process.

Participative leadership works best in situations where group members are skilled and eager to share their knowledge. It is also important to have plenty of time to allow people to contribute, develop a plan and then vote on the best course of action.


Drawn from Cherry, K. A. What is Democratic Leadership, at, accessed 30 December 2015.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Leadership and Communication (core topic) in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 1 April 2016.

Image: From BizRapport at, accessed 30 December 2015.