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Democratic leadership Essay

Democratic leadership style is the advisable leadership style which encourages participation in decision-making and it can be persuasive or consultative. However, there is no ‘best’ leadership style because nothing can be absolute right and comprehensive. In this assignment, I will illustrate the successful case about GLANZ GROUP which adopted autocratic leadership style in the beginning of its foundation. Furthermore, I will also show the successful cases by adopting democratic leadership or combination the different leadership styles in their company in order to support to my opinion. The cases from the books and from internet will also be illustrated.

Strong leadership, no matter how well intentioned and benevolent, can foster dependency and subvert democracy. Yet absence of any leadership will lead to confusion, drift, and tension. As many progressive activists have remarked, there can be a “tyranny of structurelessness” as well as of autocracy.

The example of Mr. Qinde Leung

Mr. Qinde leung, Chairman of the board of directors and CEO of GLANZ GROUP who built up his own factory using 300 thousand RMB in 1978: Guizhou Feather and Down Factory, the former one of GLANZ GROUP. Soon after, he quickly realized that it was more beneficial for these down stream enterprises which used their products for further dress business. He decides to do the same business without any techniques and any skillful persons at that time. It was a big risk so that a lot of employees were against this plan. But Mr. Leung insisted on his own schedule and finally he got complete success depending on his own experience and special views. It can’t be denied that at the developing stage of the company, facing the complicated situation and unbalanced quality of employees, Mr. Leung had to mange his company in autarchy. With the revolution of modern enterprises system in 1990, Mr. Leung became the CEO of GLANZ GROUP, his decision was un-challenged, but luckily, he has the special view and convincing personality and lead the GLANZ GROUP to today’s flourish.

It has become an enterprise that owns about 740 acres and 20,000 staffs by 2003. Being one of the most outstanding groups of home appliance in China, GALANZ also won the fames of “Global Microwave Oven Manufacturing Center”, “Global Air-con Manufacturing Center”, “Global Small Appliance Manufacturing Center” and “Logistic Center”. In Oct 2003, GLANZ invests 2 billion RMB in purchasing about 495 acres of land in Huangpu Town, Zhongshan City to set up the largest air-con manufacturing base in the world. Its annual production capacity of air-con will increase to 12 million sets. (http://www.galanz.com.cn)

Mr. Qinde leung, the benevolent-autocratic leader is described as powerful and prestigious but one who can be communicated with and is interested in his subordinates’ problems (Robert N. McMurry, “The Case for Benevolent Autocracy,” Harvard Business Review, Vol. 36 (January-February 1958), pp. 82-90). He structures the activities of his subordinates, makes policy decisions affecting them, and enforces discipline. He may encourage participation in planning, but in executing he is the “chief.” However, James Gibson, John Ivancevich, and James Donnelly, Jr., say even this style has been weakened by recent changes in attitudes within our society (James L. Gibson, John M. Ivancevich, and James H. Donnelly, Jr., Organizations: Structure, Processes, Behavior (Dallas: Business Publications, Inc., 1973), p. 298). This may particularly be true for younger generations as they express desires to shift away from any authoritative or paternalistic environment.

Every organization will solve the problem of leadership in a different way. Some successful co-ops– especially smaller ones–are highly egalitarian. They have no formal leaders and few overt signs of leadership behavior. Other groups do well, at least for a generation, with a single central leader who encourages the members to participate. Many successful groups find middle ground. They reject dominating leaders and also escape the “tyranny of structurelessness.”

The example of the OEOC (Ohio Employee Ownership Center)

While attending the University of Texas and later getting his Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University, John Logue studied abroad in Mexico, Denmark, and Germany. He was particularly interested in the worker-owned and democratically operated Mondragon cooperatives of the Basque region in Spain. With lots of plants under its control, the Mondragon Co-operative Corporation is the largest business corporation in its region, and the eighth largest in Spain. Several years later, Logue observed similar cooperatives and employee-owned enterprises in Quebec, Canada. Studying these models built his belief that democratically operated well to the company, just as democratic countries outperform autocratic ones.

Logue, a professor of political science at Kent State, directs OEOC. Assisted by a small staff, he works to increase the number of employee-owned and run companies and to help their employees build personal assets. When a company considers shutting down an Ohio facility, for example, OEOC shows its owners and workers how employee ownership can save their livelihoods. Then, after plants make the transition to employee ownership, OEOC provides continue support to worker-owners through education, connections to consultants, and help organizing democratic structures for decision-making and communication.

In all, OEOC provides 4,000 hours of leadership training per year. Since 1987, the group has helped 438 Ohio companies and plants, employing more than 83,000 people, explore the possibility of employee ownership. Of these, 64 have implemented partial or complete employee ownership plans. Logue has demonstrated that direct employee-ownership of companies promotes reinvestment, job creation, and asset-building for workers and their local economies. (http://dept.kent.edu/oeoc/index.htm)

The Kohl’s Department Store Example

Store manager, Audrey McCaskey, works with other employees and assistant managers of the store to come up with ways to improve their store’s performance. (http://www.kohlscorporation.com/AboutKohls/AboutKohls01.htm) As the leader, Audrey is a qualified manager who fits every characteristic of a good store manager. Her ways of doing things at times are fierce yet ethical, and with her team, she is determined to get the job done; proving that leadership is an essential part of a manager’s position.

When Audrey came to be General Manager of Kohl’s back in 1997, Kohl’s was excelling in sales and profit. Her energy and motivation (although sometimes a bit sarcastic) as well as her visions for the store, classify her as an excellent leader. However, I would also classify her as a transactional leader. Besides motivating employees, Audrey is hardworking and determined to get the job done. She runs her store efficiently and tries to keep it as a smooth operation. In fact, most managers used all the different styles on the job at some point or another. Many of these management styles are practiced within the management team of Kohl’s. Through these different styles, management is able to lead in a more effective manner.

Firstly, coercive leaders – Management at Kohl’s demands that each and every employee gives their 100% effort during their jobs. Working as a member of the team, each employee is expected to do their share of the work. Secondly, authoritative leaders- Management encourage employees to work hard and continue the trend of growth, innovation, and profitability. Thirdly, affinitive leaders- Known for Team based operations, team leaders at Kohl’s create a harmonic work setting, making all employees feel comfortable with the store setting. Managers also try to develop and sustain working relationships with all employees.

Fourthly, democratic leaders- Participation is practically inevitable while working at Kohl’s. Managers encourage participation through contests, and jean or tennis shoe days, which usually have positive results. Fifthly, pacesetting leaders- All employees are told what is expected of them and their performance. Therefore, employees work at achieving expectations and or goals through team work and self direction. Lastly, Coaching Leaders- Each new employee of Kohl’s is given extensive training within the first 3-6 weeks of employment. With this, managers hope to develop leadership skills among all employees.

Every morning before opening of the store, Kohl’s manager or assistant managers have a brief meeting, discussing the stores’ current sales increases or decreases and upcoming sales. For this meeting, managers follow an outline that briefly goes over each priority for the day. The outline goes over sales plans, goals, and actual, credit application goals, and actual, store news, top priorities for the day, and advertising. When sales are up, employees are encouraged to keep up the good work and often are awarded with a jean day. When awarded a jean day, employees are allowed to wear jeans to work. Managers will also advise employees having corporate visits. Corporate visits are that someone from the Kohl’s corporate center visits the store to make sure everything is in place and in order. During these visits, all associates are asked to maintain their departments especially well. Managers will also hold afternoon meetings for employees who work the afternoons and evenings.

Another form of communication is the weekly K-Notes which come inserted in each weekly paycheck. In K-Notes, store managers briefly discuss store news such as upcoming events, corporate visits, new associates, etc. Each employee of Kohl’s receives an evaluation every 90 days from Audrey or an assistant store manager. During these evaluations the manager will go over with the employees their current job performance. The manager will point out all the positive things in the employees’ performance and the entire negative. Through this discussion, the employees are able to learn their strong points and what needs to be done to improve their overall work performance. When employees receive a good evaluation, their salary is increased.

Obviously, Kohl’s has done very well in its approaches to team leading and teamwork overall. By practicing each of the individual styles of leadership, Kohl’s has been proved to be successful in its operations.

In a word, the situational approach to leadership styles has been a valuable contribution. More realistic than previous theories, it shows that there is no “one best” style for all situations. Attempting to define and determine a proper leadership style is an extremely complex task for any leader. The evidence is becoming clearer that there is no single, all-purpose style of behavior that is effective in all managerial situations. Someday, experience and research may provide us with “the one best way.” Until then, each manager must be open-minded, informed, and adaptable.


[1] About the OEOC 2001 [Online, assessed 10 Mar. 2004] URL: http://dept.kent.edu/oeoc/AbouttheOEOC/AboutTheOEOC.htm

[2] About Kohl’s 2003 [Online, assessed 8 Mar. 2004]. URL: http://www.kohlscorporation.com/AboutKohls/AboutKohls01.htm

[3] Bill C. 2001 We Are All Leaders! Democratic Leadership Makes Us More Powerful [Online, assessed 6 Mar. 2004]. URL: http://www.geonewsletter.org/ed44cas.htm

[4] James L. Gibson, John M. Ivancevich, and James H. Donnelly, Jr., Organizations: Structure, Processes, Behavior (Dallas: Business Publications, Inc., 1973), p. 298

[5] Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. 1995 The leadership challenge: How to keep getting extraordinary things done in organizations (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[6] Robert N. McMurry, ‘The Case for Benevolent Autocracy’, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 36 (January-February 1958), pp. 82-90

[7] Soaring Galanz 2002 [Online, assessed 10 Mar. 2004]. URL: http://www.galanz.com.cn

[8] Yukl, G. A. 1998 Leadership in organizations (4th Ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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