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Democratic, Autocratic and Servant Leadership

The essence of democratic leadership can be defined by the three functions it is able to perform. These include the distribution of responsibility among the group, the empowerment of the members, and assistance or guidance of the collective’s decision-making process (Woods, 2020). As such, many members of a group are often performing functions of a leader and a follower. Research has found that democratic leadership systems attempt to refer to traits that are in step with honesty, intelligence, creativity, competence, equality, and trust (St. Thomas University, 2018). In a successful democratic leadership, practices adhering to these positive traits can help promote a positive work culture in which employees or colleagues are inspired to trust and respect their leadership. As such, this trust can allow followers to interact with decision-making processes and problem-solving situations in the workplace without fear of punishment. Democratic leadership encourages creative and diverse solutions, commitment of group members, and increased productivity. This style of leadership is best implemented in workplaces or projects where collective participants are skilled, involved in the process and eager to share information.

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Autocratic leadership distinguishes itself from democratic leadership by being individual-led and authoritative in the process of making decisions. It does not rely on the participation of group members, and autocratic leaders often make decisions based on their own judgments and opinions. As such, the autocratic leadership style is characterized by little need for group member input, the necessity for a decisive leader who is able to dictate process methods, exceedingly structured work environments, and established rules. In contrast to democratic leadership, its disadvantages are often visible, such as volatile trust between employees and employers, decreases in morale, and lack of diverse and creative problem-solving.

However, it offers advantageous angles when implemented with the appropriate workgroup. Unlike a rather time-consuming decision-making process that originates from a democratic leadership, the autocratic style allows for structured responses to issues in a quick manner, which is especially necessary for a stress-filled event. Second, it offers a clear hierarchy and chain of command which can be necessary in case of managing responsibility and inquiries. Additionally, in environments or situations where strong and decisive leadership is essential, the autocratic style can provide the necessary tools and systems for success.

The term “servant leader” refers to individuals who practice a leadership style in which the good of those they lead are held above the leader’s own interests. It is a common type of leadership that can be found within the industry of health care and nursing. Some of the personal leadership traits expressed through this style include ethical behavior, prioritizing subordinates or patients, empowerment of the followers, conceptual skills within the organization, emotional stability, and forming and sustaining community-driven values. In a study that interviewed nurses about servant leadership traits, the self-reports and the reports from followers had similar accounts of the servant-signifying characteristics (Hall, 2017). In a work setting, this is preferable, as such agreement between employees and employers suggests honest and clear communication. This factor illustrates how “servant leaders” in nursing settings have a clear understanding of their contribution to the workspace and are observant of the needs of their employees.

The study also suggested that accurate self-reporting had links to positive outcomes in the workplace. For instance, the precise assessments of interviewed leaders were connected with reliable diagnoses of strengths and weaknesses as well as formulating reasonable self-improvement plans. As such, the servant leadership model is able to assist the organizations, the leading nurses, and subordinate nurses through practices and policies that adhere to positive qualities such as ethical decision-making, consideration of colleagues, and empathy for patients.


Hall, H. (2017). Advancing future nursing executive practice: The evidence base for servant leadership in nursing [PowerPoint slides]. Nursingrepository.

St. Thomas University. (2018). What is democratic/participative leadership? How collaboration can boost morale? 

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Woods, P. (2020). Democratic leadership. Oxford University Press.

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