Democratic management: not always the way to go

by on March 16, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

We talked in an earlier post about when it’s appropriate for leaders to use the Democratic Style (planning, for example). Now let’s talk about two instances where this management style is not appropriate.

First, an obvious one. In a crisis, leaders need to deploy a command and control style. If the building is on fire, leaders don’t ask for a vote on how best to evacuate the building.

But how about when you’re setting big strategic goals? I’ve heard people make the case that goal-setting should be democratic because people are more likely to buy into goals if they participated in creating them.

Sounds right, but in reality that rarely happens. And usually shouldn’t. Take the example of deciding whether or not to enter a new, risky market. Yes, a manager can ask her team to research the market and make recommendations. But ultimately the manager has to make the call, and accept accountability if she makes the wrong one. That can’t be a democratic decision.

Nor can strategic decisions such as hiring senior executives. A leader would be wise to get feedback from other team members about the capabilities and “fit” of a job candidate. But, again, the leader needs to make the call and “own” the decision. If the candidate doesn’t work out, no serious leader would say, “Well, I just did what my team wanted.”

How well do you practice situational leadership? Do you have a full repertoire of managerial styles that you can deploy in different circumstances?

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