Leadership is a crucial dimension of a successful organization. Leadership can play decisive roles in giving direction to an organization, formulating organizational objectives and creating values and culture. Leadership, however, is not a homogeneous concept, and a multiplicity of different leadership approaches exist. In the following paper, on the basis of both the academic literature as well as my personal experience, I will defend my own personal preference for a participative leadership approach. The participative approach can be seen as a »best of both worlds« approach, in so far as it combines the important position of leadership with the contributions of team and organizational members into a synthesized unit where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
At first glance, the participate approach may seem to detract from the centrality of the role of the leader. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30). This, however, is a misconception. The leader still plays the crucial function of both assembling organizational members into a team, as well as soliciting opinions from them in order to meet precise objectives or answer specific problems. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30) The participative approach essentially employs the knowledge skills of organizational members, so as to address given objectives and resolve particular difficulties, with the leader ultimately determining how the team should tackle objectives and solve problems on the basis of gathered information. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30) In this sense, it could be called a radically democratic approach to leadership, where contributions of organizational members are highly valued, while also maintaining a hierarchical organizational structure where a given leader or team of leaders still ultimately holds authority as well as responsibility.
From my own experiences, I tend towards the democratic and participative aspects of leadership. Each member of an organization brings a unique perspective, history and knowledge to the group. I have seen from past experience that great insight has come from throughout the organizational hierarchy, from more simple problems such as scheduling, to more complex problems such as communicating with patients. I feel comfortable asking others for insight and constantly learning. Whereas I do not have an authoritative personality and this is also one of the reasons this particular approach attracts me, I also understand the merits of valuing the voices and contributions of others and also the importance of a self-critical stance, whereby the leader understands that just because he or she is the leader does not mean that he or she has all the answers.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As with all leadership approaches, there are clear strengths and weaknesses to the participative model. One of the greatest strengths of the model is that it uses the organization’s collective knowledge so as to address problems. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30) This is decisive, in so far as »combined knowledge and experience of the members of a group or organization exceed those of the leader. «A leader is in a position of authority, but this obviously does not entail that the leader is omniscient. Narratives of group members can be unique and contribute to new viewpoints on a given problem. In addition, this reliance on others in the participative approach creates a sense of community. The organization is brought closer together, as all members of the organization feel that their personal experiences, skills and knowledge are valued and a decisive component to the success of the organization as a whole.
Certainly, there are also weaknesses to the participative approach. For example, it may assume that all group members have the same interests. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30) Furthermore, it may assume that group members have something of value to contribute. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30) There are also concerns that a participative style is too diffuse so as to maintain a strong leadership structure. (Ricketts & Ricketts, 2010, p. 30)
My greatest strengths and weaknesses as a leader, I believe, accurately reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the participative approach. Above all, I consider myself as a good listener and respect the points of views of others. I understand that, even in a position of leadership, there is still more to learn. This is why I would be effective in gathering the input of others in order to address distinct problems. I believe that I am also able to effectively frame and present problems and objectives to an organization, so as to gain relevant responses.
It could be argued that because I do not consider myself to have an authoritative personality, if I applied a participative approach, this would lead to a loss of control in the organization. However, respecting the opinions of others and soliciting advice does not necessarily mean chaos. Rather, my task as a leader in this regard would be to synthesize these opinions, to understand the merits or weaknesses of given input, and make a decision based on the contributions of others as well as my own personal contribution to the particular discourse.
In a participative approach, the main task would be to learn how to synthesize opinions of others, process the received viewpoints and make an effective decision. I already consider myself to be a strong listener who respects other organizational members. This is a strong starting point for this approach. Accordingly, I must continue to work on evaluating the quality of various proposals to a given issue. This requires a personal judgment that is able to assess what is relevant. This demands experience on the level of practice as well as a strong theoretical foundation. The former is provided by work experience, the latter provided by academic studies. I can continue to grow as a leader by further immersing myself in the literature on participative leadership, so as to understand how to most effectively employ this leadership approach.
The participative approach to leadership values the contributions of others in the organization. It understands that insight may come from anywhere in the organizational hierarchy. At the same time, it requires a strong leader who is able to present issues to organizational members as well as make decisions based on the contributions of team members. This style not only fits my own strengths and weaknesses as a leader, but also reflects some of the values I could bring to an organization, such as a commitment to the value of the experiences of others and a democratic approach to organizational objectives and culture.
- Ricketts, C. & Ricketts, J. (2010). Leadership: Personal Development and Career Success. New York: CENGAGE: