Consensus Building Leadership

Leadership Styles: Democratic

Updated for use in our Leading Through COVID series.

This is the fourth week in our six part series about leadership styles. We’ll be using the six Leadership Styles as defined by Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadershipand we’ll be exploring how each of those different leadership styles can be useful during this new abnormal. Each is rarely used alone and none of them should be used all the time. The goal is to develop your ability to use each style so that you can apply the right leadership style to each situation. Every week we will focus on a different style, helping you to understand the style itself and when and where it is needed. We’ve already covered Affiliative, Visionary, and Pacesetting, this week we’ll focus on the Democratic Style.

The Democratic Style of leadership is all about listening. Democratic leaders take the time to stop and ask their employees opinions before making major decisions. They convene diverse groups together to hear all sides of the story. Those that are truly talented in the Democratic style welcome any and all feedback including the good, the bad, and the ugly. They listen objectively and work to implement the feedback they’ve heard.

Those with a Democratic Leadership Style are most effective when there is confusion about what the best direction might be. They need to gather input from their company not only to make sure they are making the right decision, but also to get better buy in from the staff. Employees who have had a say in the solution are less likely to balk at changes. Democratic leaders are also effective when the vision is clear, but the exact path is not. They gather creative and innovative options from their staff before deciding on what they think is the optimum way forward. Taking the time to listen to any and every suggestion for how to move forward is an extremely important skill right now. You never know where a company-saving idea might come from.

However, Democratic leaders become less effective when there is a true crisis. If a decision needs to be made quickly, taking time to get consensus and buy in is only going to waste time. They can also lose effectiveness if they spend too much time trying to create consensus, even when there is not a crisis. Endless meetings spent discussing the same topic over and over will frustrate the team and leave the company listless.

It’s best to use this style sparingly right now as people are looking for strength from their leaders. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you have to be able to give a clear direction. Even if you might need to change that direction in a few weeks, you need to let your employees know that you can step up and make a decision.

Stay tuned for our next installment where we’ll cover the Commanding style.

If you’re interested in learning what style of leader you are, take our Leadership Styles quiz here.

Eure Consulting