Participative Leadership - What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages?

Lately the phrase "Participative Leadership" has become almost a buzzword in business circles. If you follow business blogs about leadership and management styles, then you have certainly seen many posts and articles talking about this particular leadership style recently.

In fact, so many people toss the term around that you may not have seen a definitive definition of what it is, or heard any kind of definitive arguments about whether or not it is an effective way of getting business accomplished.

Below are an explanation of precisely what is meant by this phrase, in what context it might be used, and a full exploration of what some of the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing this leadership style might be in various situations.

What is participative leadership?

The phrase "participative leadership" describes a leadership style in which a project is worked on by a team, with all voices on the team receiving equal opportunity for input, and being given equal weight as far as their importance to the team as a whole.

Basically, it is a style of working on projects that allows different people from different backgrounds and different parts of the organization to construct a plan and implement that plan, working together as equals.

Where is participative style leadership used?

You can find this leadership style utilized in companies big and small, as well as in volunteer organizations, in churches, in clubs -- and even in some home and domestic situations.

What are the advantages of participative leadership?

1)   One advantage is that it allows all voices to be heard, and all team members to feel respected.

2)   Another advantage is that it brings together diverse perspectives, allowing the final solution to be more robust and better rounded.

3)   Yet another advantage is that it values the perspective of team members from many different backgrounds, who will see a wider range of potential pitfalls, and have more creative ideas about how to avoid them.

4)   Perhaps the most significant advantage is that it allows current leaders to both identify and groom team members with leadership potential into future leaders in the organization.

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What are the Disadvantages of Participative Leadership?

participative leadership

1)   One disadvantage is the additional time that must be invested in this particular leadership style. Because of the fact that there is discussion at every turn, and the majority of decisions are arrived at by consensus, it is necessarily more time-consuming than a top-down leadership style.

2)    Another potential disadvantage is the possibility for interpersonal squabbling and unpleasantries. Any time people have to work closely together about a project that they are all passionate about, personality styles are going to clash -- that is inevitable.

What is the Ultimate Goal of Participative Leadership?

The ultimate goal is to arrive at a solution that is greater than the sum of its parts. In short, the idea is that the collective intelligence of the group will be able to come up with and subsequently implement a solution to complex problems that no one member of the group would have been able to arrive at on their own.

How Successful is Participative Leadership?

Depending on the project that the group is attempting to complete, the problem the group is attempting to solve -- and of course on the group themselves, and their particular dynamics -- the success of this leadership approach has mixed results.

In some situations, it works exactly as intended. The synergy of the group is able to overcome the differences of the individual personalities, and the group comes up with a brilliant solution that none of them would have thought of on our own, and then implemented smoothly in a way that no one single member of the group would've been able to handle individually.

In other instances, the group gets bogged down in interpersonal issues, and cannot see past their own individual attachments to their backgrounds and perspectives well enough to compromise and think of the well-being of the group and the project over themselves.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that -- especially if your organization is in a deadlock with a particular problem that they may have tried to solve any other way -- giving participative style leadership a try just might yield the results that you've been looking for!

Thank you and May God bless you!

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