LEADERSHIP: Participation is the Secret to Success

As you climb the corporate ladder, build a healthy relationship, or build a business, you may find that leadership skills are just as important as technical skills. But with so many leadership styles, it can be an enormous task to decide which one to adopt. The good news is your leadership style will be unique to you. According to research, participative leadership can be one of the effective leadership styles. So, what exactly is participative leadership? And how can you apply it to your own career? Let's dive in.

What is Participative Leadership?

Participative leadership is a form of governance that shares power and encourages input from others. Unlike autocratic leaders who simply give orders and expect them to be followed, participative leaders work collaboratively with their teams to find solutions to problems and make important decisions. This collaboration creates its own culture, one of open communication, respect, and actively seeking input from everyone involved. Employees' involvement in the decision-making process encourages a commitment to ownership and investment in the outcome, leading to greater job satisfaction and morale.

How to Maximize the Advantages of Participative Leadership

So, how can you become a participative leader? Let me help you get started on your journey:

Earn Trust

For a participative workplace to flourish, colleagues need to trust their leader and each other. This requires confidence in each other's character and abilities. As a leader, you can foster trust by being sincere and transparent in your communication. Be open to feedback and show a willingness to admit when you don't have all the answers.

Pull Together

Close communication draws a team together. Encourage open communication among team members and aim to create a supportive environment. By building strong relationships among colleagues, you'll improve collaboration and boost morale.

Increase Engagement

According to recent Gallup polls, employee engagement is at its lowest in 20 years. Fifty-four percent of employees say they are psychologically unattached to their work and do the minimum. Giving employees a greater voice can increase their commitment. Encourage your team to share their ideas and concerns and take them seriously. This will help them feel valued and invested in their work.

Celebrate Diversity

One of the greatest strengths of participative leadership is welcoming contributions from team members with a variety of talents and backgrounds. Approaching challenges from many different perspectives usually creates more effective solutions. Encourage your team to bring their unique experiences to the table and celebrate the diversity of thought in your organization.

Reward Innovation

The free flow of ideas is another benefit of participative leadership. When you create a safe environment for discussion, employees are more likely to propose ideas that can help your business. Recognize and reward employees who bring innovative ideas to the table. This will encourage others to do the same.

Overcoming Obstacles to Participative Leadership

As with any leadership style, there are obstacles to overcome. Below are some of the most common challenges associated with participative leadership and how to overcome them:

Clarify Your Vision

Motivating and inspiring your team becomes even more important when you expect them to make greater contributions. You need a clear mission that appeals to employees' emotions and core values. Be sure to schedule regular one-on-one time with team members to discuss their goals and provide adequate resources to support them.

Teach Communication Skills

With so much focus on discussion, employees may need to work on their communication skills, including active listening and sharing constructive feedback. Offer training sessions and post helpful reminders around the office. Use games and exercises to make learning fun and memorable.

Plan for Delays

One common drawback of participative leadership is the way group decisions usually take longer. You may need an alternative process when you're dealing with time-sensitive matters. Make sure you have a clear timeline for decision-making and stick to it.

Provide Structure

Planning ahead can also speed up discussions. Circulate an agenda before meetings, so attendees will come prepared and stick to the subject. Hire a professional facilitator or use a staff member.

Set Boundaries 

The participative model works best with issues where your staff has at least a minimum level of expertise. You may have to limit input on some matters to those who meet certain qualifications.

Deal with Dissent 

After your team votes, what do you say to the members who were in the minority? Make it clear from the start that each employee needs to be fully committed to backing the final decision.

Be Decisive 

Even in the most democratic workplace, there will be times when a unilateral decision is necessary. As a leader, you still need to take responsibility for resolving sensitive issues that affect the future of your organization.


Participative leadership is a valuable approach to leadership that can benefit both leaders and their teams. It's a form of governance that shares power and encourages input, enhancing outcomes and increasing job satisfaction and morale. By earning trust, pulling together, increasing engagement, celebrating diversity, and rewarding innovation, you can maximize the advantages of participative leadership. However, there are obstacles to overcome, such as clarifying your vision, teaching communication skills, planning for delays, providing structure, setting boundaries, dealing with dissent, and being decisive. With practice, you can develop your participative leadership skills, advance your career, and make your work more meaningful. So take the first step towards being a more collaborative leader and start implementing these suggestions in your workplace today


1. What if my team is resistant to the idea of participative leadership?

It's normal for employees to feel skeptical or resistant to change, especially if they're used to a different leadership style. To help ease the transition, be sure to communicate the benefits of participative leadership clearly and openly. Encourage your team to share their concerns and be willing to listen to their feedback. You can also start by implementing small changes and gradually increasing participation.

2. How can I balance participative leadership with being a decisive leader?

While participative leadership involves sharing power and encouraging input, it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your own authority as a leader. There will be times when unilateral decisions are necessary,  especially when it comes to sensitive issues.It is essential to create a balance between being collaborative and decisive. You can do this by clearly communicating your expectations and making it clear when you need to take charge.

3. How can I measure the success of participative leadership?

Measuring the success of participative leadership can be challenging, as it often involves intangible benefits such as improved morale and engagement. However, you can track certain metrics such as employee turnover rate, productivity, and customer satisfaction to see if there are any improvements over time. Additionally, regular feedback sessions with your team can help you gauge their satisfaction and identify areas for improvement

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