What is participative leadership?

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Participative leadership is an inclusive democratic approach in group leadership, where everyone gets encouraged to participate. But how do you differentiate between critical and consultation leadership? Participative leadership follows six crucial decision-making steps as follows:

1.   Group discussion

You as the group leader in the participative leadership style will normally be the overseer of the decision-making process. You need to facilitate a consultative brainstorming session and discuss the matter or decision to be made.

2.   Provide information

In this step, you share every pertinent information relevant to the decision.

3.   Share ideas

At this point, every idea on how to get a solution is contributed by participating members.

4.   Process the information and ideas

Being the group leader, you then take the authority to summarize the gathered data and information and the group’s ideas.

5.   Make the decision

As a group, you analyze the outcome collectively and that forms the basis of choosing the best decision.

6.   Decision implementation

Every member implements the agreed decision.

Types of participative leadership

There are 4 types of participative leadership

  • Consensus participative leadership
  • Democratic participative leadership
  • Autocratic participative leadership
  • Collective participative leadership

Benefits of participative leadership

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The benefits of participative leadership

i.                     Staff buy-in

Because you empower your team to be involved in the high-level decision-making process, you give them a sense of commitment and motivation. They also will likely endorse and implement the decisions faster and more effectively as they participated in making them.

ii.                   Boosting morale

Participative leadership is a strong source of boosting the morale of your employees. It provides high spirits to everyone in the team as they feel valued and appreciated.

iii.                  Collective thinking

Participative leadership introduces collective thinking in decision-making processes. It brings on board inventive, innovative, and creative thinking from everyone. Input from all organizational levels often leads to previously unfathomed heights of performance and capacity building as it is synergetic in nature.

iv.                 Retention

Employee turnover is rare in institutions, organizations, and businesses that apply the participative approach to leadership. Workers are more loyal to participative style organizations than they would be in, say, dictatorial organizations.

v.                   Unity

Organizations with participative leadership have less internal competition through the situational nature of the common goals and decisions which brings about unity.

vi.                 Independence

When you empower group members are actively involved in decision making, the implementation of such decisions leads to less micromanagement by group leaders. Such workers already know what the expectations are, what they must do, and when it’s to be done.

vii.                Value

When you make group members feel valued by listening to their ideas, their motivation, self-esteem, and commitment improve dramatically.

Downsides of participative leadership

Participative group leadership has downsides, too.

a.       Slow

Implementing the participative leadership style could take along. You’ll have to organize a large team often. Getting feedback and new ideas from each member, brainstorming on possible courses of action, and taking the all-inclusive decision-making process takes lengthy discussion hours to ever come to any conclusions.

b.      Expensive

A lot of time goes to the decision making process associated with participative group leadership. You could find that you are causing a loss of time and resources by engaging everyone in every decision.

c.       Social pressure

Workers at the low level in the organizational hierarchy might feel pressured to conform to their superiors or the groups’ majority. A truly democratic decision may not be easy to do.

d.      Inefficient

The organization of large groups leads to inefficiency and a tedious process of gathering thoughts and ideas.

Who is a participative leader example?

The following are four famous participative leaders

1.      Jim Lentz

Jim Lentz is an effective participative leader. He is CEO of Toyota in North America. At a time of crisis when millions of Toyota units were recalled due to a bad brakes problem, he personally led his team to respond to clients in those difficult times.

2.      Bob Diamond

Bob Diamond built Barclays into a huge financial market player during Margaret Thatcher’s (former UK Prime Minister’s) tenure. Having a massive credit crunch and with banks failing everywhere, he still managed to lead Barclays to champion all those challenges. They did not need any government bailouts.

3.      Jack Stahl

While working as Coca-Cola president, Stahl implemented the participative group leadership style. In his leadership, there were increasing profits. He could delegate and oversee his teams to attend to the finest of details whenever needed but primarily taking a step back.

4.      James Parker

At Southwest Airlines, James Parker exhibited a participative leadership trait of selflessness. After a tragic time in the aviation industry when airlines were grounded, his company applied an extraordinary strategy.

At that time Southwest Airlines employees involved their customers in enjoyment activities like bowling to help them pass time. The airline’s profits, as a result, began increasing while others were cutting costs by applying layoffs.

What are the characteristics of participative leadership?

There are five key characteristics of participative leadership. They are:

  • Allowing subordinates to participate in decision making
  • Getting subordinates to know at any time about prevailing situations- good or bad.
  • Keeping workers aware of the organization’s morale and allowing all to actively participate to keep it high.
  • Offers of counseling, development, training, and mentorship opportunities are availed to everyone on the team.
  • The group leader is very approachable.

Final Thoughts

What is participative leadership? How do you use participative leadership? Participative or democratic leadership guides workers based on inclusion. You’ll need as a group leader to focus on others. Learn from them in all-inclusive brainstorming sessions, make decisions together, engage, and be open to modifications based on collective opinions.

You must possess the right to participate traits to successfully lead your team. These, as we’ve disused above, including being a team builder, open to new ideas from every participant, empowering, and selfless.

When employees find value in being incorporated in decision making, they’ll want to stick to your institution, organization, or business. Participative leadership leads to high retention, and unity in the workplace. However, decision-making in times of crisis is slow and could lead to losses. This is because all must participate in the process, despite their varying degrees of motivation, commitment, and, primarily, skills and experience.


  1. Iowa State University


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