The Leadership Approaches to Manage the Employees

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Organizations often adopt different leadership approaches to manage their employees. Most of their selections are based on varied theoretical underpinnings, such as trait, style, path-goal, and transformational leadership theories (Andersen et al., 2018; Rajbhandari, 2017). The trait theory is concerned with the innate leadership attributes that managers should have (Karsten and Hendriks, 2017). In this regard, it propagates the belief that leaders are not nurtured but born. Comparatively, the style theory is concerned about people’s management style and actions, as opposed to traits they possess (Andersen et al., 2018; Rajbhandari, 2017). The path-goal theory is focused on aligning organizational processes with its vision. Therefore, its focus is determining the best path towards accomplishing a set of key objectives.

Based on the varying characteristics of the aforementioned theoretical bases for evaluating leadership approaches, four key management styles have been used to implement them. They include autocratic, directive, consultative, and democratic leadership styles. An autocratic leadership style is an authoritarian form of leadership where managers tell employees what to do and do not expect to be questioned about their decisions (Richter, 2018). Comparatively, the directive leadership style maintains some form of consultation with employees in the decision-making process but the ultimate authority rests with the employer (Karsten and Hendriks, 2017). Therefore, it is mostly adopted by leaders who want to exercise absolute authority.

The third style of leadership is the consultative approach, which encourages managers to actively seek their employees’ views but reserve the right to make the final decision (Richter, 2018). It is often adopted by managers who do not understand the full scope of a situation and would like to have a broader understanding through discussions with other parties. Additionally, this leadership style is adopted by leaders who respect the views of other employees and like to have their input before making a decision (Gerpott, Ulrike and Anne, 2019). This consultative process happens despite one leader having the authority to overlook other peoples’ views when making decisions. Lastly, the democratic leadership style gives employees the power to influence decisions made in an organisation because their views will be actively sought by managers (Aaldering, van der Meer and Van der Brug, 2018).

This paper demonstrates how the consultative leadership style is the most appropriate to use in a workplace environment characterised by employees who have significant demographic differences. Evidence will also be given to show how other leadership styles do not fit such a workplace environment and how managers could effectively implement the consultative leadership style to improve organisational performance and effectiveness. However, before delving into the details of this analysis, it is important to first understand the impact of demographic differences on organisational performance.

Impact of Demographic Differences on Organisational Performance

Demographic differences between managers and their employees could be based on several varying characteristics that separate different cohorts of employees, including age, income, religion and gender. Culture is also another commonly highlighted basis for differentiating employers and employee relations and it is highlighted in several research studies, including those of Safi (2017), Heizmann and Liu (2018). In line with this view, researchers have used demographic characteristics to investigate how people are similar or different from one another. While many organisations boast of having a diverse workforce, many of them are unable to effectively manage such teams. Furthermore, a significant percentage of managers do not understand the implications of diversity in their workplace (Li et al., 2020). Consequently, some of them simply rely on the law to inspire their diversity management policies because there is no common standard for managing diversity in the workplace (Dennissen, Benschop and van den Brink, 2020). For example, the 1975 Age Discrimination Act in America outlined a raft of procedures that organisations should follow in managing diversity and demographic differences in the workplace (Inegbedion, 2020). Many organisations base their diversity management policies on this law.

If left unaddressed, demographic differences could affect organisational productivity. For example, low levels of employee motivation, high rates of absenteeism and poor productivity are some of the human resource challenges associated with managers who fail to properly check the effects of demographic differences in the workplace. Part of the problem has been the failure of managers to understand the best type of leadership style that they should use to manage a diverse workforce. As such, several metrics of performance are always affected. For example, poor quality goods and services are often linked to this problem.

The concept of quality refers to the standard of measurement that people use to compare one product with another of a similar kind. This concept has been integral in understanding the type of leadership approaches adopted by different organisations because of its usefulness in measuring operational effectiveness. Total quality management and six-sigma are among the many management concepts that have emerged from this school of thought (Richter, 2018). Their uses in management literature have been widely adopted because they all seek to measure a unique attribute about a specific product, service or type of management. The works of Edward Deming in TQM are particularly useful to this analysis because they point to the need to integrate quality in the management of organisational affairs. Additionally, they provide a common framework for all stakeholders to follow when completing organisational tasks, regardless of their differences. Therefore, it becomes part of the mantra for the operationalisation of management plans.

Implementation of Consultative Leadership Style in a Diverse Workplace

A consultative management philosophy provides the overriding guideline for the operationalisation of organisational plans. It has been heavily influenced by the works of notable scholars such as F. W. Taylor who encouraged employees to work smarter and more efficiently as opposed to harder (Andersen et al., 2018; Rajbhandari, 2017). His philosophy has been used by several researchers to underscore the need for coming up with innovative and effective solutions for addressing organisational problems and implementing organisational plans (Andersen et al., 2018; Rajbhandari, 2017). These principles of scientific management partly stem from the industrialisation period where there was a heavy emphasis on the division of labour and automation. The concept was also notably associated with the efficient production of goods but, recently, it has also been applied in the service industry.

One of the key principles of this management philosophy is the creation of a body of work rooted in empirical evidence. Secondly, managers are required to carefully select and develop their teams for the completion of organisational plans. The next step should be combining the science of the job and the art that an employee brings to the production process to promote innovative ideas in the firm. Lastly, there should be a clear demarcation of labour and responsibilities between employees and employers. The limitations of these key tenets of leadership birthed the consultative leadership style, which is highlighted in this study as the best to use in a diverse workplace.

Justification for the Consultative Leadership Style

One of the cardinal principles of implementing the consultative leadership style is for leaders to treat employees as they would want to be treated. Fairness is an important factor to consider in this analysis because decisions have to not only be fair but to be seen by the employees as such. This principle of the consultative leadership style stems from an innate understanding that all employees are individually different. Therefore, it may be prudent for employers to understand each one of them in an in-depth manner. Through such an exercise, managers could understand which methodologies to choose when implementing this leadership approach. For example, they would better understand which employee groups are task-oriented or socially driven. Some cultures are also driven by self-motivated employees, while others are motivated to accomplish tasks collectively. If employees understand these differences in an in-depth manner, they may be better able to understand how to navigate these differences when managing different groups of employees.

The consultative leadership style would help leaders to understand and appreciate other people’s values, which is an important characteristic of effective management. Doing so would help the managers to appreciate which issues are important to each demographic group and their implications on organisational processes. Therefore, the consultative leadership style allows managers to discover these differences, as opposed to assuming them. Doing so could also make leaders and managers be more responsive to a team’s needs because they understand the individuals better than those who adopt a non-consultative leadership style. For example, those who adopt a persuasive leadership style may, on the surface, look like they are involving other parties in their decision-making processes but they will not be in a position to understand these people deeply because of the abstract nature of their interactions. Consequently, they are not likely to complete the information loop needed to make them responsive managers. The consultative leadership style offers an opportunity for leaders to be effective in overcoming this challenge and inspiring employees to boost organisational performance.

This leadership style is unlike that adopted by an autocratic leader because the latter does not tolerate debate with juniors. Furthermore, most autocratic leaders are very specific about how decisions should be implemented in the organisation, as well as the timelines that should be met (Schoemaker, Heaton and Teece, 2018). Failure to meet these deadlines or execute functions as stipulated may attract severe forms of punishment that would often demoralise employees and make them fearful to contribute to an organisation’s decision-making processes.

Some autocratic leaders offer some latitude to their employees to implement decisions. However, there is still little room for negotiations to take place (Shera and Murray, 2016). Studies suggest that autocratic leaders can easily make their employees look competent and organised, regardless of whether this is true, or not (Höllerer et al., 2019; Shera and Murray, 2016). However, this form of leadership is not appropriate for an organisation that has employees with varying demographic characteristics. This is because researchers have pointed out that managers who adopt such a model often suffer leadership problems with employees who want to have their opinions heard (Schoemaker, Heaton and Teece, 2018). Consequently, the autocratic leadership style overlooks the diversity of employee relationships which could ultimately impact an organisation’s productivity.

The directive leadership style is also unfit for an organisation that has varying demographic characteristics because of the same reasons given for the autocratic leadership style above. For example, the directive leadership style demands that managers set clear objectives and rules, which should ordinarily be followed without much debate with the subordinates (Pitichat et al., 2018). Therefore, when a directive leader initiates a project, they offer specific instructions on how it should be implemented as well as outlining quality standards that should be attained. Similar to an autocratic leader, directive managers provide specific deadlines to tasks and formulate firm rules or boundaries that should govern employee actions (Weisinger, Borges-Méndez and Milofsky, 2016). An organisation that has different demographic characteristics among its employees may experience challenges in such an operational environment because the directive leadership style allows little room for compromise. A consultative model solves this problem.

The democratic leadership style shares some similarities with the consultative approach because they both allow for some degree of employee input in the decision-making process. Particularly, the democratic leadership style supports the need for a consensus in the management of organisational affairs (Zilinsky, 2019). In its framework, the views of the majority are often upheld as the main basis for decision-making (McCoy, Rahman and Somer, 2018). This approach to management means that the opinions of the minority employees are often disregarded after a consensus is reached. This principle of the democratic leadership style makes it unattractive to an organisation that has people of different demographic characteristics because the views of the minority group may always be disregarded, thereby causing resentment among some employees.

The potential for communication errors in a democratic leadership structure also makes it unfit for a company that has people of varied characteristics. The mere presence of varied traits means that there is a similarly diverse level of discordance in communication styles adopted by employee groups (Wuttke, Gavras and Schoen, 2020; Spierings, 2019). If this is the case, the basic tenets of a democratic leadership style make it ineffective in leading a group of people with varying characteristics. For example, one of the main demographic characteristics that exist in many organisations is gender differences. Men are known to communicate differently from women (Olsen, 2016). A leader must recognise this fact and find a way of creating equality in objectives despite these varying differences.

A democratic leadership style would propose the use of a self-style decision-making framework that could be fair or unfair to one party. For example, women may have trouble participating in an electioneering process characterised by violence or abuse. Consequently, their male competitors may find an unfair advantage in the decision-making process. Their decision-making processes are also subject to cultural differences between different groups of employees, which may further affect the outcomes of democratic processes (Snaebjornsson et al., 2015). For example, some cultures often discourage women from being aggressive (Noon, 2018). Therefore, they may be hesitant to voice their opinions in a male-dominated work environment. A leader should recognise such differences and evaluate how they impact organisational productivity. In line with this view, the democratic leadership style is not appropriate for a firm that has people of varying demographic characteristics.

A consultative leadership style emerges as the best approach for managing employee relations because it refrains from imposing the will of the majority over the minority; instead, it seeks to influence people who have an opposing view to support the majority opinion. Therefore, even though there may not be a consensus achieved in the decision-making process, people who have a dissenting view will know that their ideas were seriously considered by the leader before the final decision was made (Snaebjornsson, Edvardsson and Littrell, 2017). This leadership approach is a unique type of servant leadership whereby a leader’s role is to help communicate different ideas to people who have diverse opinions.

The advantage associated with this type of leadership style is the potential to achieve a high level of employee buy-in where a decision has been made and it is to be implemented. In other words, employees are likely to support a leaders’ final decision when they believe that their inputs were considered in the decision-making process (Jit, Sharma and Kawatra, 2017). Indeed, by allowing people of varying demographic characteristics to give their views in the decision-making process, they develop an increased stake of ownership in the decision-making process. Studies show that many organisations that have adopted the participative leadership style enjoy high levels of productivity because of improved heightened employee satisfaction (Al Doghan, Bhatti and Juhari, 2019; Park, S. et al., 2018). This is particularly true for employees whose views form part of the final decision. They often feel respected and appreciated, thereby leading to high levels of contentment.

Such employees also require low supervision, which ultimately leads to lower cost of production as managers do not have to spend many resources hiring supervisors to check their work (Abasilim, Gberevbie and Osibanjo, 2019). Overall, these findings suggest that an organisation which has demographic differences among its employees should adopt a consultative leadership style because it accounts for most relevant variables linked to demographic differences that may affect productivity in the workplace. Therefore, it emerges as the best leadership style to use in such a context.

Limitations of the Consultative Leadership Style

Although the consultative leadership style may be effectively used to manage diversity in the workplace, it has several limitations that need to be addressed during implementation. One of them is that decisions made using the framework may take a long time to formulate compared to those that are developed from alternative leadership styles, such as the authoritarian approach (Romani, Holck and Risberg, 2019). The lengthy period associated with making consultative decisions is attributed to deliberations that often occur between managers and employees. In other words, there may be a back-and-forth exchange, or a brainstorming exercise, that will ultimately take a long time to process before a final decision is made. Indeed, when people have varying demographic characteristics, they may fail to easily identify a common ground for making impactful decisions. Again, this process requires compromise and patience, which accounts for the lengthy period associated with the consultative leadership style. Furthermore, managers or leaders are supposed to listen to all views before making a final decision. The process may involve lengthy deliberations that involve all parties in the negotiation process by giving their views about the matter in question. When different groups have to be heard, it becomes increasingly difficult to make a decision within a short time. In fact, it may take days to achieve a consensus. Subject to these limitations, it is important to be cautious when adopting the consultative leadership style and avoid using it to make urgent decisions or choices that require a short time to achieve a consensus. Alternatively, managers could seek early deliberations to give adequate room for all parties to make their contributions and develop a consensus.


When employers and employees are unable to agree on the management’s vision because of demographic differences, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve consensus on varied issues because of differences in culture, attitudes and norms that may affect the decisions made by different parties. Consequently, it is important to adopt a leadership style that would specifically influence one stakeholder to understand the views of the other. Leadership is an important tool that organisations could use to improve their performance. It helps to catalyse human resource outputs through increased synergy and effectiveness in the management of organisational activities. The insights highlighted in this document draw attention to the role of leadership in promoting diversity management. Existing literature on leadership and management have indicated that there are four main styles adopted by organisations – democratic, autocratic, consultative, and directive.

The consultative leadership style emerged as the best approach to use in a diverse work environment because it allows employees to exchange ideas and influence each other. The goal is often to come up with a common vision regarding an organisation’s processes. Based on the evidence provided in this paper, the consultative leadership style allows people to share their thoughts and processes to assess the merits, demerits and implications of such processes on a business’s plans. One of the main assumptions of this leadership style is that the parties involved have the capacity to evaluate possible solutions and come up with one that suits their needs. In a situation where the relationship between employers and employees is characterised by demographic differences, it becomes essential for managers to refrain from imposing their authority on others. The consultative leadership style provides them with a framework for doing so.

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