The Democratic Style of Leadership

democratic leadership
Illustration by Hugo Lin, Verywell

Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership or shared leadership, is a type of leadership style in which members of the group take a more participative role in the decision-making process. This type of leadership can apply to any organization, from private businesses to schools to government.

Everyone is given the opportunity to participate, ideas are exchanged freely, and discussion is encouraged. While the democratic process tends to focus on group equality and the free flow of ideas, the leader of the group is still there to offer guidance and control.

The democratic leader is charged with deciding who is in the group and who gets to contribute to the decisions that are made. Researchers have found that the democratic leadership style is one of the most effective types and leads to higher productivity, better contributions from group members, and increased group morale.


Some of the primary characteristics of democratic leadership include:

  • Group members are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, even though the leader retains the final say over decisions.
  • Members of the group feel more engaged in the process.
  • Creativity is encouraged and rewarded.

Researchers suggest that good democratic leaders possess specific traits that include honesty, intelligence, courage, creativity, competence, and fairness. Strong democratic leaders inspire trust and respect among followers.

These leaders are sincere and make decisions based on their morals and values. Followers tend to feel inspired to take action and contribute to the group. Good leaders also tend to seek diverse opinions and do not try to silence dissenting voices or those that offer a less popular point of view.

Pros and Cons of Democratic Leadership

  • More ideas and creative solutions

  • Group member commitment

  • High productivity

  • Communication failures

  • Poor decision-making by unskilled groups

  • Minority or individual opinions overridden


Because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts, democratic leadership can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Group members also feel more involved and committed to projects, making them more likely to care about the end results. Research on leadership styles has also shown that democratic leadership leads to higher productivity among group members.


While democratic leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects.

In some cases, group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process. Democratic leadership can also result in team members feeling like their opinions and ideas aren't taken into account, which may lower employee satisfaction and morale.

Best Settings for Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership works best in situations where group members are skilled and eager to share their knowledge. It is also important to have plenty of time to allow people to contribute, develop a plan, and then vote on the best course of action.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Amanchukwu RN, Nwachukwu OP, Stanley GJ. A review of leadership theories, principles and styles and their relevance to educational management. Management. 2015;5(1):6-14.

  2. Khoshhal KI, Guraya SY. Leaders produce leaders and managers produce followers. A systematic review of the desired competencies and standard settings for physicians' leadership. Saudi Med J. 2016;37(10):1061-7. doi:10.15537/smj.2016.10.15620

  3. St. Thomas University Online. What is democratic/participative leadership? How collaboration can boost morale.

Additional Reading
  • Martindale N. Leadership styles: How to handle the different personas. Strategic Communication Management. 2011;15(8):32-35.