Think it’s your job as the leader to make every single decision yourself and hand down marching orders to your team? That’s not always the case—especially when it comes to a participative leadership style.
Before we sink our teeth into the details of this approach, let’s lay the foundation by reviewing some leadership statistics:
A Deloitte survey found that the most effective 21st century leaders need to have the ability to :
Participants in a Stanford study who worked collaboratively stuck with a difficult task 64% longer than their peers who worked alone. 
A participative leadership style is one in which all members of the group or team are invited to contribute ideas, ask questions, and assist in the decision-making process.
Rather than the manager or leader doling out instructions, they invite their team members to participate in conversations and influence choices with their own suggestions. You might also hear this referred to as a democratic leadership style.
Participative leadership is a leadership style in its own right, but it can be broken down into even more specific approaches to management and leadership.
Let’s add some clarity with a few participative leadership style examples. Sasha is the founder of a marketing analytics startup, and she’s trying to decide which software feature her team should prioritize next. She could:
Those are all examples of participative leadership, since the entire group was invited to contribute to the conversation and the process was collaborative. However, the decisions were made three very different ways. It’s proof that there are several different participative leadership styles, including:
One of these participative leadership styles isn’t inherently better than the others. Which one works best will depend on your team, culture, the decision you need to make, and more.
Like any other leadership style, participative leadership has its benefits and its drawbacks. Which pros and cons should you be aware of? We’re digging into the most notable ones right here.
Let’s start with the good news first: Participate leadership offers a number of positives for organizations.
It’s hard to deny the advantages of a participative leadership style, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. Here are a few pitfalls you might experience.
Participative leadership styles definitely have their advantages, but how can you tell if this approach is the right one for you?
Start by looking at the results of your F4S assessment to see if you have a high affinity for any of the following motivations:
People who have these motivations high on their list typically find a participative leadership style to be a natural match for them.
Beyond that, keep in mind that a participative leadership style isn’t the right choice for every team or every decision. Let’s look at some criteria for when you might want to try this more democratic approach—as well as when it should be avoided.
A participative leadership style might be the right choice for one team, but not another. Or it might even be a great fit for one project, but not some of your other work.
That’s the great thing about leadership styles: they can change and adapt. In fact, that level of flexibility is a leadership all on its own. It’s called situational leadership, in which a manager tweaks their leadership style based on the unique situation they’re in.
When you find that you have time to provide necessary context, encourage discussion, and evaluate creative ideas? Then a participative leadership style can be the perfect approach to help you land on the best solution—and engage your team in the process.
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