Participative Leadership

When I first encountered the term “participative leadership” I was kind of puzzled. What kind of a leader cannot or does not participate? Is it possible to lead at all without participation?

participativeThe search offered some answers on the topic, nevertheless I was amazed that most authors won’t distinguish two important but different roles, managers and leaders: “… as it is within the managers' whim to give or deny control…” or “…in the participative leadership style, effective managers solicit input from subordinates …”.  Participative leadership pertains to leaders, doesn't it? (see: Leader vs. manager).

Another statement “a participative leader, rather than taking autocratic decisions, seeks to involve other people in the process” was pretty much familiar - the same definition was ascribed to charismatic leadership (Charismatic Leadership).

Among many more publications about participative leadership I came across the definition “… the leader turns to the team for input, ideas and observations instead of making all decision on his or her own.”  Well, can a leader really lead without inputs from his team? I sincerely doubt it.

building relationshipsI was puzzled by the following definition “… a leadership style in which the leader works closely with team members, focusing on building relationships and rapport…” Can a leader be apart from his / her team? An absentee? Long ago Goleman said that relationship is a key to a leadership not to mention emotional intelligence that a leader should possess and is a part of any relationship.

I liked this one “… participative leadership tends to work best when you aren't making decisions ‘under fire’…” So, you have a leadership style that doesn't even work in all situations and you are promoting it? Isn't leadership about leading people in all situations?

So at the heart of participative leadership style I found that participative leadership is when leaders:
  • ask for input from subordinates,
  • manage daily operations more efficiently,
  • ensure a positive long-term impact (I would say have vision),
  • handle risks and/or uncertainty,
  • maintain energy and enthusiasm for solving complex problems,
  • require the advice of others to achieve the company’s strategic goals.
I am sure the above statements sound very familiar to you, don’t they?

Quite some time ago my boss asked me about the outcome of a project I was leading. I began   to explain giving all details I knew. He was listening attentively, grasping the information but at the end his reply was simple “I have a management meeting. If any question arises about the project I’ll call you to explain as I just cannot repeat what you've said!” Surely this attitude could be ascribed to participative leadership and be in accordance with most definitions of the said style or not?
team members
Maybe this story falls into a leadership as it is?


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