Akhil Shahani asked:
As a business owner, one of your biggest challenges is to lead your team well. Should you focus on employee participation at the cost of business goals? Or do you â€œshow them how itâ€™s doneâ€ and expect the team to follow your lead? Is there a different approach for every situation?
In this piece, weâ€™ll take a look at a particular leadership style – â€œparticipative leadershipâ€ and its benefits.
Leadership means different things to different people. However, a generally accepted definition is that it â€œis a process that takes place in groups in which one member influences and controls the behavior of the other members toward a common goal.”
While every leader creates his or her mantra of leadership, most leadership practices fall into one of these categories. Try and figure out your style!
Directive Leadership: You have the first and last word, and the group merely follows instructions. Do we sense a secret longing to be in the army!
Supportive Leadership: You create warm, personal relationships with your team members in order to coax their best efforts.
Participative Leadership: Group members are involved in the decision making process right from the start, by contributing their ideas and suggestions. Youâ€™re a strong believer in team work.
Achievement Oriented Leadership: You give your team a goal and they work independently towards achieving it. Either youâ€™re plain lazy, or more likely, have a high degree of confidence in your teamâ€™s ability.
For now, let us take a closer look at Participative Leadership
A person who follows the participative leadership style will get a buy-in from group members on most changes and important decisions, before implementing them. However, the leader is still the final decision making authority. Remember, participative leadership is not about reaching consensus â€“ if you keep looking for universal approval, youâ€™ll never get anything done.
Some people feel that participative leadership is a â€œfemale thingâ€ and makes you look soft. Letâ€™s set the record straight – using this style is not a sign of weakness, in fact, itâ€™s a strength that your team will respect you for.
When does participative leadership work?
While itâ€™s not practical to change your approach with every situation, you might like to try participative leadership under specific conditions. Say youâ€™re working on an assignment where you have limited expertise but your employees collectively have a lot of knowledge and experience. Using participative leadership is likely to create a win-win for both â€“ they will feel included and youâ€™ll make better informed decisions. And if youâ€™re the owner of a start-up firm, getting buy-in on key issues from your core team members could prove invaluable.
Can I learn to be a participative leader?
Sure! Leaders are made, not born. Here are some of the important tips offered by experts:
Encourage group values: Allow the group to establish values and thereby take ownership. Of course, these will have to support the firmâ€™s objectives.
Share vision: Participative leadership is all about sharing, starting with your dreams for the firm. Let your employees know where theyâ€™re headed.
Create a healthy environment: It is your responsibility to create an environment based on trust and mutual respect. Give your employees their space. No growth is possible without it.
Equip the team: No point taking their inputs, if they donâ€™t have the necessary skills for the job! Ensure they have the tools and the training.
Organize and energize: Not every speech needs to be â€œrah rahâ€, but itâ€™s important that you nurture and motivate your employees. Get those juices to flow!
Take and give feedback: Two-way communication is the cornerstone of participative leadership. Be generous with praise and objective with criticism. Talk, but also listen.
Expect accountability: Since your employees are given more responsibility, they must be accountable for their actions. At the same time, donâ€™t turn into a control freak!
If you are interested in knowing more, take which features a wide selection of books on leadership.
Whatâ€™s in it for me?
Participative leadership is not all about feeling good about yourself. It can take you through many challenging business situations.
Implementing change: Regular involvement of the team prior to introducing the change will ensure that theyâ€™re already prepared for the transition. This works better than a separate â€œbuy-in meetingâ€ that other types of leaders might resort to.
Encouraging risk taking: A senior manager from a global telecom company relates how he used participative leadership to encourage employees to think out of the box, while charting their companyâ€™s growth plan.
Solving technical problems: If you need to get a group of gruff, technically qualified people to solve a complex problem, a participative leadership style will help draw out their combined expertise.
So, is participative leadership the best?
Thereâ€™s probably no answer to that one. Each style works better in a specific situation and vice versa. Participative leadership is no different â€“ while weâ€™ve talked about the benefits, itâ€™s equally important to recognize those instances where it wonâ€™t work. A situation that requires firm control and immediate action â€“ like say, a disaster site, certainly cannot afford a consultative approach. To be an effective participative leader, you must also develop an astute judgment for when not to use it!