What Is the Democratic Leadership Style?

Written by Rebecca Turley

democratic leadership style

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Chances are, you’ve been in a situation (either in or out of the office) where you come together to accomplish something as part of a team and someone inevitably says, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Though this catchy phrase has become a bit cliché, it really does hold true. Working together usually gets the job done faster, better, or easier.

In the democratic style of leadership, leaders are banking on this concept to accomplish goals faster, bigger, better.

Derived from the word “democracy,” which means “rule by the people,” the democratic style of leadership is one where the leader encourages all members of the team to have an equal voice. In this environment, employees are active participants, with the leader taking a “we’re all in this together” attitude. Here everyone’s ideas and opinions are considered and valued.

What Does the Democratic Style of Leadership Look Like?

group video conference

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

In a democratic style of leadership, a leader welcomes the active participation of all members of the team when it comes to making decisions and solving problems. Employee engagement is front and center, with the leader in this environment firmly believing that the team always works best when everyone is fully invested in the decisions made and the actions taken. While the final decision is always made by the leader, everyone gets a say in the democratic style of leadership.

Democratic leaders believe that there’s no better way to achieve team and company goals than by encouraging employees to become engaged and actively involved in the decision-making process.

In the democratic leadership style, leaders:

Creative Ways to Brainstorm With Your Team

ways to brainstormThe democratic style of leadership fosters creativity, communication, productivity, inspiration, and a mutual respect between employees and between leaders and members of their team. Open discussions and brainstorming sessions are practiced liberally, and impact-driven teams thrive. Members of the team validate one another and build off each other’s ideas as they navigate conflict and build a stronger team culture.

If you’re ready to inspire your team to solve problems and find creative solutions, a brainstorming session may be in order. Here are a few brainstorming techniques to get your team’s creative juices flowing:


Every member of the team writes down one or more ideas on post-it notes or index cards and places them in a central area where anonymity is preserved. The leader posts all ideas on a board or wall for all to see, and the team works through the ideas together. In this scenario, members of the team confidently share their ideas without fear of being judged or criticized by other members of the team, and no one feels awkward delivering negative feedback about another colleague’s idea. Through brainwriting, team members feel more comfortable engaging in a brainstorming process that is free of personal bias.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a creative way to capture all those ideas that are being churned out during a brainstorming session. The leader writes down the topic or question to be discussed in the middle of a white board (digital whiteboards are great for remote teams) or other large surface. All ideas branch out from the central topic. As each idea is explored, the information is written down (mapped) onto the board. In this scenario, members of the team can go back to the central topic and not get lost as many ideas are explored.

Gap Filling

Gap filling is a great exercise for answering the question: “How do we get there from here?” The leader starts by identifying the current state and the end goal. It’s then up to the team during the brainstorming process to work through how to bridge the gap between the two. A flow chart is a great way to get the team to visualize what the process may look like. Gap filling is ideal when brainstorming an issue that requires a clear solution to a problem.

Chat Waterfall

For remote teams, the chat waterfall allows for a stream of ideas that hit all at once. The leader begins by posting the topic and then providing each member of the remote team with a designated time frame during which they type their ideas into a group chat. When the time has ended, the leader instructs everyone to hit enter, thereby allowing the “waterfall” of ideas to appear. This creates a more level playing field, particularly for team members who need more time.

The Benefits of the Democratic Leadership Style

Not surprisingly, the democratic style of leadership has been shown to produce highly productive team environments where creativity, team engagement, and collaboration flourish.

When team members become part of the decision-making process, their commitment to the team’s success naturally strengthens, as does their dedication to their job and to the company they work for. As a result, employee turnover decreases and the team continues its forward momentum.

And it’s not just about making the employees happy. The democratic style of leadership has been shown to help leaders make better decisions and realize both team and company objectives. A constant flow of ideas, opinions, and perspectives allows leaders to make better decisions that ultimately benefit the team and the company as a whole.

When a democratic style of leadership is used with the right team, at the right time, and in the right situation, employees feel a greater sense of value. Employee morale increases when everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard and respected.

Drawbacks of the Democratic Leadership Style

But the democratic leadership style isn’t without its challenges. Like any other type of leadership, the democratic style of only works when you’ve assembled a quality team and utilize it in the right situations.

A democratic style of leadership will struggle to get off the ground and produce positive results when: