Democratic Leadership Style

Definition

First described by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in 1938, the democratic leadership style was one of three leadership types documented.  The democratic leader was also acknowledged by Daniel Goleman in 2002, as one of his six leadership styles.

The democratic leader gives followers a vote in nearly every decision made by the team.  This decision making style is very time consuming, and while its team-building atmosphere has its advantages, it's not an appropriate style when speed is required.

Explanation

The democratic leadership style is able to quickly build flexibility and responsibility, and can help identify new ways to do traditional jobs.  This leadership style is best used when the followers are knowledgeable about the organization's processes and change is needed.  For example, this style is effective when the leader needs to introduce fresh ideas into the organization to help improve an existing practice.

Lewin, Lippitt, and White were one of the first researchers to categorize leadership styles in terms of behavioral characteristics.  Prior to their work, leadership traits were the focus of leadership studies.  The basis for their model states that leaders are made, not born.  That is to say, leadership does not come naturally.  It is something that can be learned through classroom study and observation of others.

Related Terms

situational leadership style, autocratic leadership, laissez faire leadership