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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Hunt

Participative leaders and their followers

What is a leader without followers? Without followers, they’re just a person with an idea or a mission without any support or anyone giving them feedback. One person can’t make well-rounded decisions or be able to see multiple perspectives on their plan. They have no one with whom to exchange ideas and no one to tell them when they’re wrong. A participative leader needs people to lead. Without followers, there is no movement, no widespread furthering of the mission. Because participative leadership depends on support and input from followers, those who follow are as important as the leader. They give the leader’s mission depth and dimension by adding their own unique viewpoints and skills to the decision-making process.

Participative leadership encourages creativity in followers and values the opinion of everyone in the group. It supports participation not only from the leader, but from followers as well. In traditional leadership roles, the boss is difficult to access and always has the final say in decision-making, even if they are ill-informed of the issue. Participative leaders are more accessible and in tune with their subordinates’ persona goals and values. They ask for help in solving problems and finding innovative solutions and are unafraid of showing vulnerability.

A lone leader must remain stoic and strong in order to withstand criticism from others. They have to back up their ideas by themselves and prove that their mission is worthwhile without support from anyone else. They aren’t leading any specific person or group, so they don’t know where to turn for help. With followers, there are plenty of people to show support for the leader’s ideas and to share the mission without the leader having to do all the legwork. A diverse group of followers make sure that decisions made won’t negatively affect people from different backgrounds.

Participative leaders need more that sheep or yes-people. They need star followers who take initiative and enjoy being trusted with a high amount of responsibilities. In my experience, the type of leadership displayed can shape the behavior and roles taken on by followers. An ideal participative leader would shape their team members into star followers and bring out the best in each one. The leader should get to know what each follower hopes to get out of their time as a member of the group and what their long term professional goals are. This way, the leader can give them tasks specific to their goals and personalize their interactions.

All leaders need followers, but participative leaders might need them the most. Because each follower is part of the decision-making process and given a high level of responsibility, they determine the success of the participative leader’s organization. Without followers, who would they participate with?

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