Participative Leadership

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There are many types of leadership theories and models being practised in many organisations. Leadership has been a popular topic, and for many years. Individuals and organisations have sought out more information on how to become great leaders by attending leadership based workshops and courses (Qing Miao, Newman, Xu Huang, 2014).

Leadership is defined as having the ability to influence, guide and lead the employee’s experience in the organisation, a leader of a group, organisation or an institution. (Patty, 2014; Surji, 2015). Leadership ability is considered a valuable asset to the organisation as it improves growth and revenue. Organisations invest their resources on the subject of leadership development and training to their establishment (Surji, 2015). It is believed that leadership is also a way to enhancing personal, social and professional development (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002).

Effective leadership has taken over workload and work-life balance as the top reason cited by employees when it comes to being engaged with work.

According to Patty (2014), a survey was done over 32,000 employees in 26 countries to look at top known causes of work-related stress. The results have shown that some of the critical factors include inadequate staff, excessive workload, and lack of support from supervisors, conflicting job expectations and poor teamwork.

This survey suggests that the majority of the employees were wary of constant change in their organisation and wanted a clearer vision and leadership from their managers. 52% of the international counterparts deemed their leaders as ineffective. On the other hand, 57% of employees have rated the mid-level managers whom they are more involved with as effective. Patty (2014) suggests that effective leadership is a crucial factor when it comes to the engagement and retention of employees as the survey has also shown that 72% of employees were deemed engaged when they have perceived both their leader and manager as being effective.

In my previous article ‘Enhancing Motivation in Organisation’, Qing Miao, Newman, Xu Huang (2014) discussed how employees reciprocate by exhibiting higher levels of work performance with more substantial efforts in completing work tasks and greater extra-role performance is found through participative leadership.

I found it intriguing as this style of leadership is often practised in organisations such as start-ups. On the other hand, most other organisations adopt a directive style of leadership, where the top management would provide instructions, and the ops management follows without question. However, innovation has taken many organisations away from traditional and hierarchical leadership. Many are now moving towards participatory or collaborative leadership approaches (Miao, Newman & Huang, 2014).

This article acts as a part 2 of enhancing motivation; looking in the benefits of the participative leadership style.



Among the various styles of leadership, Participative Leadership is considered as a motivational technique and has shown effectiveness in increasing job satisfaction of employees (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002; Fisher, 2009; Miao, Newman & Huang, 2014). It is a leadership style that involves everyone in the team setting goals, problem-solving, team building, etc., but the top management or employer still makes the final decision. A participative leader encourages group supervision that enhances communication among subordinates and leaders, thus improving the cohesion within the organisation.

This aspect of leadership also brings out the strengths of other individuals in the organisation. It allows them to have inputs in what is required to be done to benefit the organisation as a whole. In other words, everyone in the team is a leader in their own right, which results in fewer conflicts and more efficiency in producing results in the long run (Chen & Tjosvold, 2006; Huang, Iun, Liu, & Gong, 2010).

Huang, Iun, Liu, & Gong (2010) suggested that being a participative leader is about respecting and regarding everyone as an equal, being fair and unbiased to the team. Everyone in the team holds roles and responsibilities as a leader in their ways. They would take up a portion of the workload, thus reducing stress on the leader and aids with the continued success of the organisation. Consistent with Patty (2014), claiming in a study about employees who would prefer their leaders to be good at clarifying direction, inspiring a shared vision to where the organisation is going and sticking to that as a long-term strategy. This equates to having job security, a stable income and being aware of what “the future looks like”.


The key to why participative leadership works lie in the essences of teamwork. Giving everyone in the team a chance to be heard is of great importance to the company as it provides different insights due to the various work-life experiences that each individual possesses. Ideas are developed and implemented, therefore resulting in higher productivity in the organisation (Somech, 2005; Somech, 2006). A motivational speaker and author named Simon Sinek explored how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change. Quoted from him, “If you hire people because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears”. This quote talks about a leader needs to understand what could be the motivating factors of employees (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002) — being able to provide trust and believing in them to share the influence in decision-making. A leader must also be able to tap into the employee’s skill sets and knowing what their personal goals or reasons being in their jobs. This would then help the organisations to improve commitment boost motivation and to keep employees engaged and productive (Somech, 2005; Chen & Tjosvold, 2006).

“An enlightened ruler does not worry about people not knowing him; he worries about not knowing the people” – Zhuge Liang.


In a study conducted by Bhatti and Qureshi (2007) across various sectors and industries, employee participation was found to correlate with employee productivity. Employees are more willing to play a part in decision-making, problem-solving and goal-setting activities which translate to higher work performance. The employee would assume responsibility and take charges. Also, studies have shown that employees across hierarchy were found to be more responsible for their part of work, thus extending to support colleagues at other levels (Bhatti & Qureshi, 2007). Managers can better delegate work to employees because they are more involved and understands how each level operates, thus ‘creating more and better leaders’.

Participative leadership involves the promotion of personal development, job satisfaction and recognition and fair rewarding of staff’s contribution across all ages (Franke & Kaul, 1978). Yet, companies need to ensure there are equal opportunities for employees to attend seminars or participate in professional training, skills enhancement and certification programmes as it would challenge individuals and keep them interested in their jobs. Also related to the theory of motivation, a study has found the association between motivation and an employee’s job commitment. It was shown that motivation schemes designed for the workers were not adequate, resulting in being unable to meet up with the level of expectation of the employees, lowering commitment (Sanda & Awolusi, 2014).

Even so, it is a shared responsibility that will impact organisational performance regardless if it is negative or positive. Participative leadership is also a style of leadership that have traits like another model known as ‘The Leadership Challenge’ by Kouzes and Posner since 1987. The model talks about modelling the way by setting good examples and treat people right. The leader inspires a shared vision through collective decision making by involving everyone in the team. When an issue arises, the team would come together and come out with ideas to adapt to the current situation by challenging the process. The leader would then take the opportunity to enable others to act through the forged collaboration, strengthening each other and involving others by creating a fair, unbiased, respectful environment. It ends of by acknowledging mistakes and learning from them, providing constructive feedback, recognising efforts placed and the contributions set by the individuals involved. Thus, allowing them to encourage the heart.

Both the leader and the employees need to work together for the organisation to continue to expand and grow. Similar to how the company LEGO started with only six employees in 1934, 40 in 1942 and growing to a billion-dollar company. Leaders must be aware and understand the goals objective as well as the strengths and weakness towards this approach of leadership style.

Another point to note is that the organisational maturity of employees has to be considered. If such requirements are not met, then inefficiency will arise and may fail, regardless of the type of leadership style implemented. However, as identified earlier in this article, if participative leadership is appropriately implemented, the organisation will reap from the benefits, improving the quality of the relationship. Increasing employee’s participation is not an easy task and may require a long-term process, but this requires the involvement of both management’s attention and employees’ initiative (Bhatti & Qureshi, 2007). Therefore, it is imperative that organisations continuously seek to improve and adapt to the changing trend and be ever ready for different situations.



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