Democratic leadership is one where every employee is given a chance to be heard and decision-making process is made through consultation and cooperation (Singla 217). This style of leadership has its own strengths or benefits and weaknesses. The author of this paper discusses the application of democratic leadership for organisations' management and its outcomes. Both the pros and cons of this leadership style will thus form the core of this paper exploring what constitutes democratic leadership in an organization.
In an organization, two-way communication is critical. The management must thus ensure there is a clear communication between the employees and the employers within the organization and that all the decision-making processes are built on effective communication between the two parties. It is vital because democracy based on collaboration and consultation helps organizations to overcome complex problems (Taylor 65).
Two-way communication could also enable the management to build a united team that will work cohesively towards a common goal. This enhances realization of organizational goals as employees get motivated to work hard to achieve the same objectives since they feel included in the decision-making process in the organization. However, this process often comes with challenges. For example, democratic principles in decision-making often become time-consuming since the consultation with all stakeholders in an organization before decisions are made often leads to procrastination (Singla 227). This can, in turn, make it challenging for the management to make timely decisions to meet the deadlines in businesses.
Democracy is founded on the principles of openness and transparency in all decision-making processes. This builds the confidence of all players in the organization as there will be trust that all processes in the organization are transparent. Taylor (71) contends that democracy is guided by openness, honesty and a culture of credibility where resolutions are made on the basis of consensus between the majority and minority. The senior management team must thus be open to interrogation, criticism and checks and balances from all the stakeholders in the organization. However, this often remains challenging in organizations since there are confidential aspects of management and organizational details that must be treated with utmost confidentiality and sheltered against the exposure to public scrutiny. Thus, whereas democracy requires that the management becomes as open as possible and that all information is treated as public and open for public access, this may be challenging to a business organization (Singla 219). Divulging all the secrets of the organization cannot be realistic in business especially in a competitive business environment. Therefore meeting employee and stakeholders’ satisfaction as required in a democratic organization must be balanced with the need to safeguard top business secrets and strategies from the access of the rivals.
Organizations are designed in a way that the chain of command follows the organizational structure from the top management level to the lowest ranks of employees (Taylor 69). The management structure thus follows the principles of an ideal bureaucracy where the highly ranked officers instructs lower cadre employees who are in turn expected to obey and adhere to the instructions. This arrangement that exists in most bureaucratic organizations does not conform to the principles of democracy. Singla (223) asserts that democracy goes beyond mere passive conformity to the orders but it is rather a participatory process where all stakeholders at all levels agree on the management decisions and strategies for achieving outlined organizational goals. Thus, the democratic style of leadership does not exclude instructions to be obeyed, but they are not coercive and employees are rather guided by influence and persuasion.
Giving of orders to be obeyed in an organization robs employees of the satisfaction that comes with delegated authority where employees are not under an autocratic rule. Democracy guided by consultation does not, in a strict sense, demand obedience from employees (Taylor 68). Rather, it allows employees in an organization to find satisfaction being fully in charge of the processes within their mandate and performing all the delegated tasks. This, in turn, enables employees to take ownership of all the processes within their duty field. This helps the management to promote a working environment in which motivated employees and stakeholders find a sense of fulfilment, happiness, and relative eagerness to work and perform organizational duties (Singla 225). However, there are situations where the chain of command should be followed and loyalty is required from other players in lower cadres; and reprimanding and sanctioning employees if they fail to follow the unchallenged orders is necessary.
In a democracy, people are not required to adhere to the rules. This is because democratic principles create room for the growth and personal critical thinking that sometimes lead to the rise of efforts to challenge the organizational culture (Business & Management 72). However, sometimes, democracy is not given room to thrive in organizations and any voices of dissent are treated as a threat to the free flow of organization and management processes. Consequently, critical thinking as a skill is nipped and, instead, rituals of obedience, disguised within institutional management frameworks, are promoted to enhance quick decision making and radical strategic decision that may not succeed if subjected to democratic and diplomatic processes necessitating persuasion and influence of all players.
Democracy in the management of the organizations requires compromise on the part of leadership or management to accommodate contrasting opinions or views. This creates an organization where leaders are strong and supportive since all stakeholders within the organization are consulted and their views are considered (Business & Management 45). Feedback and delegation is a characteristic of such leadership styles. However, this might be a very high threshold for an organization. There are times when progress in an organization requires leadership that does not compromise. Compromising to accommodate all the diverse opinions in organizations often take a long period of time which may erode the benefits associated with a decisive leadership. This is because a consultation, as required in a democratic culture, may lead to a permanent delay or to stop project activities. In such scenarios the loss associated with failure to act faster may not be healthy for the growth and progression of the organization (Taylor 65).
Expert decision-making processes are recipe for organizational growth and expansion. Realizing this objective suffocates democracy where all opinions count in the final decision making. Democratic leadership thus creates space for mediocrity as all views including those that may not be professional and strategic are to be accommodated. In fact, in cases when democracy is given priority over expert decision making, employees may give the ideas considered to be very appealing but whose implementation may not be the priority for an organization (Business & Management 45). Executing such an ideas may end up being very costly to an organization, especially in cases where the organization has numerous employees. Failure to adopt the opinions of the employees or to communicate reasons for their postponement may cause miscommunications and resentment.
In conclusion, democratic leadership in organizations helps in building a motivated, satisfied and united workforce consisting of the management and employees. Although the gains that an organization can realize from democratic leadership are various, this is not free from certain challenges. Democratic leadership often slows down decision making process and denies the management of the liberty to make swift expert decisions that could help in grasping unfolding opportunities before they are snapped up by the competitors in a business environment.