Leadership Essay: Democratic Leadership and Diversity

1271 words | 5 page(s)

This essay concerns leadership, its problems, its rewards and the differing ways in which it may conducted in a company, or in any other possible situation. One of the central problems for anyone who is attempting to lead either a company or a group of people is how to maximise the creativity of this group whilst still maintaing a structure which allows them to make decisions and, indeed, to be a leader. Approaches which are too autocratic may well serve to allow one to perform specific tasks, however they may equally well render it impossible for other team members to contribute to a project. The consequences of this are likely to be a loss of potential in teams where opportunities for innovation go unnoticed, as well as encouraging potential problems in the turn over of staff and the general moral of a working team.

At the same time, however, an approach which is too close to complete laissez-faire leadership runs an equal risk of allowing work to become entirely disordered, failing to provide a necessary direction and attempting to excuse the incompetence of a manager of a leader through justification of a ‘hands off approach.’ In order for creativity to be possible then it is necessary that a person is given a remit and boundaries within which they can exercise it. This means that a manager must be able to work with team members, be charismatic and respected enough to make sure that one can still make a decision that is respected and be able to actively encourage diversity of opinion and diverse participation in all aspects of work. In this essay, I explore leadership from this perspective, one which seeks to maximise creativity within individual team members, and one which understands that the best way to do this is to know when to enforce specific frameworks and sanctions on certain team members and their creativity and when to allows others free reign in order to take over.

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One of the central issues which emerges whenever one considers a leadership style based on democratic motivations is the issue of diversity, how to maximise it, and, at the same time, how to make sure that it does not become the sole priority of a group or organization. As with other possible styles of leadership, it is absolutely the role of the manager or the leader of each particular team to ensure that their responsibilities regarding the maintenance of diversity are upheld effectively. I understand diversity to be that element of team which actively measure its capacity for innovation by taking account of its composition in terms of gender, race and experience and matching this appropriate to the task at hand. Were I to be in a leadership role the I would make sure that I understood myself, my team and my task well enough to be able to do this effectively. My own understanding of diversity would take into account different racial and cultural backgrounds which may affect the input and ideas which a team is able to bring together.

In a position as a leader, I would mobilise this understanding in order to assemble a team with the right level of diversity for a particular task. In order to do this I would know make sure that I knew my staff well enough to ensure that I was able to pick the most effective team for any given task. This would involve building on inter-personal relationships, both with regard to myself and with regard to team members relations with each other, and it is likely that I would engage in a continual process of team building which would include varying kinds of activities and trust exercises. These would allow me to build an environment in which individuals feel as if they can access their creativity and that their suggestions will be taken seriously. The mark of an excellent democratic manager is precisely how well they are able to mediate the atmosphere and the make up of their team in order to allow new ideas to flow and to ensure that an environment is present in which this may actively and comfortably take place.

Studies have also shown that a good democratic leader, if they wish to encourage diversity, must also go out of their way to attempt to counteract existing, but largely unannounced and unspoken power relations within companies and work places. It is clear to anyone who has ever worked in a diverse workplace that one of the biggest problems which is faced in building diversity and innovation is the already existing hierarchies and unspoken power relationships which prevent people from speaking out and being as creative as possible. In order to counter this I would consider several options such as encouraging honest speaking in meetings, and meeting team members individually as well as in groups. This would allow me to give individuals the space to speak away from the pressures of a group setting and would also allow me to understand any destructive dynamics which may be at work in my team. I would also seek to utilise diversity in unexpected ways. I would challenge members of my team to undertake projects that forced them to think from a different perspective to that which they were used to. This may include generating products for markets with whom they were not used to dealing with, or simply encouraging people to work on products and tasks which they do not usually associate with their skill set. By encouraging active participation in these challenges I would be able to foreground how much my team members did not understand, thus building a sense of humility and a desire for self-improvement. I would also be able to encourage innovation placing people with original, untried ideas into unfamiliar situations.

This broadening of the mind-set of those involved is one of the most important tasks of the democratic leader. It can be achieved in several ways, for which examples exist historically speaking. One famous example is Calos Ghosn who has overseen the French car producer Renault and Nissan. Ghosn is famous for being extremely reasonable with those who worked below him and also encouraging their creativity by providing them with challenges in order to allow them to work better and to show their potential for innovation and creativity. Another example of a democratic leader is the legendary general Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower famously encouraged those working for him to be as creative as possible and consulted his staff regularly whilst doing his best to make sure that people felt that they could voice their opinion and work through policy and other issues without fear of being overruled or out ranked by the, ironically, Republican General. The clear victory of Allied forces and the simple fact that this paper is being written and read today seems to offer a testimony as to the importance of democratic leadership and the advantages which it holds over both more autocratic forms of leadership and over overly laissez-faire approaches.

In conclusion, the style of democratic leadership is one of the most difficult to get right. It involves knowing oneself and one’s team well enough to be able to make difficult decisions regarding the direction of projects and being able to know when to encourage diversity and innovation and knowing when to take control. If this style of leadership teaches anything, then it is that maximum creativity and innovation comes about as a result of a delicate balancing between team discipline, individual talent and managerial control. The mediation of all three of these aspects is the task of the democratic leader.

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