Leadership Styles: Pros & Cons (Part 2)

Participative/Democratic Leadership Style

The assumption behind participative leadership (also known as democratic leadership) is that employees will assume a significant role in achieving the organizational objectives where leader’s role will be the creation of a conducive environment in which organizational objectives can be accomplished. In participative leadership style, a greater emphasis is given on employee participation and group work where employees enjoy the autonomy in producing and assessing the courses of action (Husband, 1975). According to Wellens (1980), empowerment is the basis of participative leadership style where employees have the right to participate, be involved and contribute significantly in making decisions to all levels where their opinions are not threatened or criticized due to the positive attitudes of leaders, which leads to an exceedingly approachable, responsive, thriving and participative organizational environment. McLagan and Nel (1995) indicate that learning and sharing is an important aspect of participative leadership style where people learn and share knowledge throughout the organization. Maisela (1995) points out that under participative leadership style employees’ say is of high importance and has taken into account to resolve and mitigate different issues relating to jobs. Marchant (1982) implies that in participative leadership, managers and employees go beyond sharing authority and decision-making to pursue organizational goals, which is the key to the efficacy of participative leadership approach. Husband (1975) indicated that due to the recognition of the expertise of line authority and the authority of non-executives the participative style is well fitted to an organic structure where higher job satisfaction among employees prevails due to the provision of exercising creative practices and flexibility (Lund, 2003).

It is indicated by Wellens (1980) that participative leadership style generates high motivation and commitment among employees as a ‘we’ feeling is generated among the employees due to the mutual and higher trust level among employees and leaders, as a result of which the employees become highly energized. Moreover, Roussel et al. (2005: p.141) specify that

it results in increased accountability of leaders and employees, reduced work ambiguity, improved organizational communication, teamwork, decreased absenteeism, increased effectiveness and productivity, uplifted morale, increased job satisfaction and recognitions of contribution.

In contrast, it is indicated that application of participative leadership style requires money and considerable amount of time; difficulty in determining who is responsible for what due to limited knowledge regarding the orientation; transformation into participative leadership style is highly complex (Roussel et al., 2005). People in this orientation manage themselves while authority to control people is the final option that leaders exercise eventually if no choice left (McLagan and Nel, 1995).

An interesting point has been raised by Mikhailitchenko and Lundstrom (2006) that participative style of leadership ensures flexibility in relation to the way dealing with the employees by their leaders, which indicates a high concern for employees and for the organizations as well. It has been well established that commitment of employees to the organizations can be increased positively to a large extent as a result of a highly flexible and participative approach exercised by leaders. The participative style of leadership positively influences the behavior of the employees to a large extent due to its significant reliance on employees’ loyalty and devotion.

There are criticisms of this leadership style as well as Brown (1992) draws attention to the fact that this approach is shaped by the personalities of many leaders, that is, a lot of leaders simply encompass those attributes of participatory style of leadership that are well fitted to the personalities and characteristics, which makes the style meaningless.


Laissez-faire Leadership Style

This style is also known as delegated leadership. It is a type of leadership style in which leaders are accommodating and permit group members to make the decisions. Researchers have found that this is generally the leadership style that leads to the lowest productivity among group members. Laissez-faire leadership is distinguished by very little direction from leaders; absolute freedom for followers to make decisions; Leaders endow with the tools and resources needed; Group members are expected to solve problems on their own (CIPD, 2009).

In Laissez-faire style of leadership, employees are responsible for managing their own tasks and performance as no authority and control is exerted form the part of management to regulate their work behavior. They are in charge of their own performance (Frame, 2003) though the managers keep them available for any sort of help (Mullins, 2007). This leadership appraoch is well fitted for highly skilled professionals and creative group of employees (Wortman, 1981). This is because they are expert in their fields and can work without supervision as the tasks are coordinated through standardization of skills (Mintzberg, 1979, 1983). Bititci et al. (2004) indicate that this style is appropriate in a role culture where higher emphasis is given on the role to perform (Harrison, 1987). In contrast, Makin et al. (1996) think that this style is highly appropriate in achievement culture due to the commitment and priority of people given to the tasks.

The efficacy of Laissez-faire leadership highly depends on the efficiency of organizational team members. If team members are highly knowledgeable, equipped with expertise, able, keen, driven and able to work on their own, Laissez-faire leadership will prove to be the most effective style of leadership. In situation where team members are experts, knowledgeable and driven, little direction is needed from leaders to accomplish the tasks members are assigned to perform. Having this sort of freedom can make some members of the organization feel more contented with their work (Eagly, et Al., 2003).

This style of leadership will be highly effective and applicable where leaders of an organization think that members of the organization are significantly skilled, highly driven and highly committed to their work. Though ‘laissez-faire’ is a orthodox term which denotes a completely hands-off way of managing people, a number of leaders, nevertheless, offer consultation and feedback to their team if required (CIPD, 2009).

Conversely, it can be inferred from the above discussion that Laissez-faire will not be an effective approach if team members are not subject matter expert, lack adequate knowledge & experience, are not committed and driven to accomplish the assigned tasks. This leadership style will be ineffective if team members are not good enough at setting goals, unable to prioritize their works, have poor time management skills & problem solving skills, lack motivation and the like. Organizations are likely to suffer if team members are given responsibilities and empowered in such situations, for example, employees may mismanage projects and deadlines can be missed and non-involvement of leaders from what is happening can cause a lack of cohesion within the group. Due to leaders’ non-involvement, members of the team may not be that cautious and show carelessness towards their works (Skogstad, et al., 2007).

It is indicated that this leadership style may result in poor coordination among the tasks of employees where employees observe lack of direction in their tasks, which eventually lead to low morale of staff and poor organizational image (Frame, 2003). It is crucial that leaders take a hands-on approach in situations where team members do not have sufficient knowledge and expertise of the jobs they are assigned to perform. Leaders can take a delegated approach in the event when group members become more knowledgeable and acquire required skills (CIPD, 2009).



…. will be added in the last part of this article.



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