Everyone loves participative leadership. Or do they? Usually, most of us would prefer to follow a leader who took our views into account. Most of us find it easier to commit to something if we have had an opportunity to have our say and to be involved in making important decisions that affect us.
Generally, when a number of people contribute to a decision, that decision gains in quality and there is a better result.
Let us imagine we are walking in a forest with a group of friends. Suddenly our little path comes out into clearing and there is a fork. The path on the left disappears off into the trees and so does the one on the right. Sadly, the map we’ve been following is out of date and we can’t even see a clearing. Which way do we go?
It is getting dark. A chilly wind is getting up and all we want is to be at home again sitting in front of the fire with a warm drink. So we argue a bit and realise we are lost – we don’t know north from south. Then John, who hasn’t said much, reminds us that in the northern hemisphere moss grows more often on the north side of trees. We have lots of trees to check and there we are – we take the left fork. We’re on our way – home again in half an hour – just as the rain starts!
Well, decisions in organizations can be like that! Sometimes, you, the leader, aren’t really sure you know the best way forward. You haven’t lost your way exactly but you’d like more information before you make that key decision. Your team would love the opportunity to contribute. If quiet John in the back office has enough confidence in you he might speak up! He might just know something you don’t about a new technology or the needs of a particular customer. That information could be invaluable.
Without participative leadership, John would not have opened his mouth. And he certainly wouldn’t have committed to all those late nights working on that new technology to make it work for you and the team.
But, at the end of the day, of course, you are the leader! What happens when a very urgent or very unpalatable decision has to be made? Does participative leadership work then? Or does it have its limits? I’d love to hear your views
- Leadership styles – are you the leader for all seasons? (wisewolftalking.com)
- Leadership, the Lone Worker and Getting Things Done (wisewolftalking.com)
- 6 Tips for Confident Networking (leavingthepublicsector.net)