Democratic Leadership in Nursing

Table of Contents


Leadership is an important aspect of nursing. The effectiveness of nursing leadership depends on the style applied. Democratic leadership is a style that encourages teamwork, employee participation in decision-making, and open communication. It empowers employees to be and do the best by developing both [personally and personally. Authoritarian leadership is different from democratic leadership in various ways. Authoritarian leaders issue orders, use their power to enforce rules and make decisions without the input of subordinates. Both styles have advantages and disadvantages depending on the context of the application. However, democratic leadership is highly effective in all fields of nursing.

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective styles of leading an organization. A democratic leader facilitates enhanced participation from all employees especially in the decision-making process. In this style of leadership, the leader makes the final decision or call. However, he/she takes into consideration the ideas and opinions of his subordinates. The leader encourages open communication and sharing of knowledge as well as the creation of relationships that are based on trust and honesty (Feldman, 2011). For example, a nurse leader should discuss with other nurses to find effective ways of addressing employee burnout and high employee turnover. The ideas and opinions of other nurses are important to the democratic leader when making such a critical decision. Democratic leadership emphasizes the improvement of systems and processes and ignores the mistakes made by individuals (Roussel, 2011). This type of leadership inspires employees to do and be the best and promotes the formation of productive and efficient teams. Employees are engaged in their work because they feel valued and part of the team. Moreover, it increases job satisfaction and encourages personal and professional development (Weiss & Tappen, 2014).

Employee development comes from the leader’s propensity to give feedback regarding performance. The responsibilities and freedom to make critical decisions given to employees improve their morale and motivation (Roussel, 2011). One of the key characteristics of democratic leadership is collaboration. Collaboration between leaders and their employees creates harmony and strong relationships, promotes creativity, and encourages innovation. Significant responsibility is placed on both the leaders and employees. Therefore, mistakes are viewed as the consequences of faulty processes rather than the doing of a certain employee. The distribution of responsibilities and the participation of employees in decision-making create an empowering work environment that increases productivity and performance (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). Democratic leaders are egalitarian, consensus builders, engaged, role models, fair-minded, forward-thinking, open-minded, team-oriented, adaptive, and flexible. For example, a unit manager in a hospital should encourage floor nurses to offer their ideas and opinions regarding the proper running of hospital units.

Democratic versus Authoritarian Leadership Styles

Unlike democratic leaders who encourage employees to take part in decision-making processes, authoritarian leaders rely solely on their own knowledge and understanding (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). They make all decisions and ignore any input from their subordinates. They use negative reinforcement to ensure that employees follow the rules they create. In that regard, they use their power to control employees. Democratic leaders encourage open communication, trust, and teamwork (Korniewicz, 2015). On the contrary, authoritarian leaders hinder open communication, trust, and teamwork. Trust develops from openness and transparency, as well as allowing employees to participate in decision-making processes especially regarding matters that are critical to the performance o their jobs. Authoritarian leaders make decisions on behalf of employees regardless of whether they are appropriate or not (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). Democratic leadership encourages the dissemination and sharing of information among employees (Kelly, 2011). In contrast, authoritarian leaders withhold critical information from employees to maintain their power. Finally, authoritarian leaders do not tolerate mistakes. Employees are blamed and punished for making mistakes (Taylor, 2010). On the contrary, democratic leaders find faults in processes and avoid blaming employees for mistakes.


Feldman, H. R. (2011). Nursing leadership: a concise encyclopedia (2nd ed). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Kelly, P. (2011). Nursing leadership and management. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Korniewicz, D. M. (2015). Nursing leadership and management: the advanced practice role. Lancaster, PA: DEStech Publications, Inc.

Roussel, L. (2011). Management and leadership for nurse administrators. New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Taylor, B. (2010). Effective medical leadership. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Weiss, S. A., & Tappen, R. M. (2014). Essentials of Nursing Leadership and management. Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

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