A form of administration in which all qualified inhabitants have an equal say in the decisions that affect their day to day activities is referred to as democracy. Eligible citizens are allowed to participate equally—either individually or through bodies they have elected —in the creation of laws, suggestion of projects or ideas and the advancement of these ideas to tangible effects. It involves cultural, economic and social conditions that enable the free and fair practice of self-expression. It denotes a social status in which members have equal rights, with nonexistence of privilege ranks acquired arbitrarily or through inheritance. Democratic leadership contrasts other forms in which power is held by a single person, a monarchy, or a small group of individuals, oligarchy. Societal advancements and needs have seen leadership modes combine the three organizational styles into a single setting probably for efficiency and effectiveness. With reference to an organization, democracy necessitates use of creative methods like negotiation when attempting to solve disputes. It incorporates due process complete with voting systems, debating and democratic structuring.
The promotion of democratic leadership stems from the many instances in which dictatorial methods have been seen to contribute to a high rate of turnover, hampering much needed creativity and downgrading morale of highly competent employees. Naturally, all systems need good two-way communication to succeed and it is therefore difficult to envision how this can be achieved in the absence of a democratic culture. In many instances, employees who publicly criticize poor decisions made by their management find themselves on the bad side of the book facing penalties and even getting fired from their jobs, most probably, on the basis of false pretexts. Good communication systems ensure that information gets across to all players without being misunderstood. Making of inquiries when something is not clear, or does not seem right, is also made easy thus reducing chances of mistakes. In an environment where ideas are freely shared without fear of apprehension, both parties, that is the leader and the followers, are able to learn from each other and thus fostering development at a much faster rate.
Many organizations require secrecy in order to function properly. For instance, it may be necessary to keep secret the design of a particular component that gives an organization a competitive edge. Security details of an organization must also be handled with some form of secrecy in order to maintain the set safety measures. However, secrecy seems to be in conflict with democratic ideologies, because it limits information to some decision-makers. In cases where functional areas and departments withhold information from each other and only partial truths are shared, then evaluation of performance would never give a true picture.
Democratic leadership promotes the expression of oneself with regards to a certain issue of concern. This means therefore that obedience, which all organizations require, will not always come by easily in such an environment. It should however be noted that each and every organization has its underlined goals which should be the only guideline for individuals in this particular station. The clear understanding of these goals would then give members a leeway to disobey as long as whatever action they take does not become a hindrance to progress.
A democratic leadership style requires the use of lateral methods like arbitration when differences of opinions arise. As many specialists will agree, rarely does a single party attain all its desires in a democracy. Compromise, therefore becomes an important requirement for democracy to work. Such methods will sometimes lead to compromising situations which would threaten the progress of most organizations. Even in situations where there is a threat to organizational goals, democratic rulings, which allow for due process to be followed, will still set in and rescue the situation.
One of the reasons why democratic leadership is opposed, is because it allows all members of a group, whether they understand the issues of concern or not, to participate in the process. Expert advice gets ignored not on basis of fact but purely because the people express their right to vote against it. This consequently means that though a democratic leadership can govern with the confidence of support from the governed the decisions made may not always produce efficient results.
Many organizations choose the command ladder as their preferred approach to management because of its speed, simplicity and low process overheads. Democratic systems, which are hectic and time consuming because of the number of people involved in the decision making, need to be complemented with other governing styles to cater for situations that need fast decision making. Also, the fact that the rule of majority leads the way also means that the minorities who almost always have positive concerns are ignored. In such situations, the democratic leader is required to possess people skills which would make it possible to lead the multitude towards considering minority issues and incorporating them into the system.
Democratic leadership has the advantage of instilling a sense of belonging to group members a feat which is important for the growth of an organization. The problem comes in where people take a democratic setting as one which allows them accomplish anything but forget that the same environment is within a rule of law which must at all times be followed. It can therefore be said that democratic leadership is necessary most of the times though other forms of leadership need also to be incorporated to counter its few negative effects.