Finally, following the last post in a series of four, we’re looking Participative Leadership, the third type of leadership studied by Kurt Lewin in 1939. This study of schoolchildren assigned to complete an arts and craft project, worked under three different types of leaders, an Authoritative Leader, a Delegative Leader and a Participative Leader.

Lewin’s research found that in general, participative leadership, or democratic leadership as it is often called, was the most effective style. These leaders encourage others in the group to participate but in most cases, maintain control over the final decision. Participative leadership results in followers who are engaged in the process of decision making, better able to support the decision and are more motivated and creative.

Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative. In his study, Lewin found that children in this group were less productive than those in the authoritarian group but their contributions were of higher quality.

What does all this research mean?

Some people believe that the best leadership style is a mix of the three styles. You may have seen the following venn diagram to represent leadership.

But this diagram is wrong. The best style isn’t a mix of all three styles.

If you go back to the first equation postulated by Lewin, he states that behaviour is a function of the person in the environment. Ultimately, the best style is the one that gets the best results in the particular environment and you may have to exhibit different styles of leadership to be effective in different types of situations.