Management Guide to the Consultative Leadership Style

Consultative leadership entails asking key people for their thoughts and allowing them time to process the problem and solve for what they feel was the best possible solution. It assumes the individuals involved are more adapt at making best possible decisions.

Consultative leadership is about developing the ability to influence people rather than impose on them your authority, engaging subordinates effectively in the decision making and problem solving process.

This kind of leadership style endorses the fact that the leader is indeed the servant of the people he is leading. The people have the power to engage in consultation with the leader and are able to make suggestions which they know would be taken into serious contemplation by the leader.

Consultative leadership is another of the leadership traits under the Bass and Colleagues’ five styles of leadership, a model developed my management guru Bernard M Bass.

Directive leadership style

The directive leader tells their subordinates what to do, and how to do it exactly. They specify the standards required of their followers and exercise firm, and often unquestionable, authority over them.

Participative leadership style

The participative leader involves themselves as a member of the team and discusses possible decisions with the team. They seek consensus and everyone is supposed to take ownership in the final decision.

Negotiative leadership style

The negotiative leader employs a more political approach to leadership. They have a personal interest in their decisions and uses incentives to entice and motivate their subordinates to do certain things.

Delegative leadership style

The delegative leader takes a back seat toward decision making, and allows subordinates to take their own course of action. They only sit with the team to discuss possible decisions that could be adopted.

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Consultative leadership style

The consultative leader ask their subordinates for opinions. While they ultimately have the authority to make the final decision, they are willing to listen to the viewpoints of every member of their team.

What you need to know about consultative leadership

Consultative leadership usually arises when the leader does not know the whole situation and she requires the views and opinions of the team on the ground that they may be able to make an informed decision, for example in a huge chemical manufacturing corporation where the experts are the engineers and scientists working in the front lines of the company’s production process.

Another reason a leader can choose the consultative leadership style is because they are humble enough to listen and consider all views before coming to a final decision.

Despite having the complete authority to make a final decision, they choose to listen to the team because they know they don’t know everything. As a result, the quality of decisions they make will often be far better than if they would have made them themselves.

The challenge with consultative leadership is that it does in fact take a little more time than a directive decision. It relies on the participants’ knowledge and expertise so the leader needs to take the appropriate amount of time to discuss and hear all sides before moving to make the decision.

How to be an effective consultative leader

Treating other people like they want to be treated

Everyone is individually different (including you) and to ensure the best relationships, it is best to get to know your team members in deeper ways.

How do they process information? Are they more social or more task oriented? Do they have strong, self-confident personalities or are they more collaborative and easygoing? Understanding the different behavior styles is key to working with different personalities.

Learn and respect people’s values

Values are those inner qualities that everyone has, and these drive human motivation.

We have found it is not that our values differ but rather that our priority of values differs. What is important to you may well be less important to your staff members and vice versa. So to deepen relationships, you need to discover (not assume or guess) what your people hold most dear and genuinely honor those as best you can within budgetary and other limits.

Be responsive to your team

One common morale sapper in organisations is a manager/leader who does not complete the communication loop. Gathering information as a consultative leader is an important step, but if your team members do not hear what is being done with their information, they can still feel left out.

Yes, you can’t always share everything you know as a leader, but you can always find ways to share some information, even if only the big picture. Or you can let people know their input was valuable but just not applicable this time. The key is to stay in touch with them.

Manage by walking around

Since staying in touch is so important, you need to be visible on a regular basis. It’s good for a decision making framework.

If you are running a decentralised department, have regular video conference calls. Consultative leadership calls for managers to divide their time in three ways: our own tasks, time for the team, and time for individuals.

Delegate more often

Delegating frees you up to do more important things than spending time on tasks others can do.

The more you delegate, the more time you have to attend to team and individuals. And the more you delegate the right things to the right team members, the richer their jobs can become. That is a win-win.

consultative leadership

Image: Reshot

What are the advantages of the consultative management style?

Consultative management promotes a deeper bond between leaders in corporate structures and the people who work with and under them by imparting importance to the opinions and input of every member of the team.

Consultative management allows leaders to be comfortable with their own incomplete knowledge of a situation and to learn and grow along with their employees through the process of consulting. It also pushes them to build trust with their subordinates.

Consultative leadership can create an attitude of involved pro-activity within a workplace. If employees feel that they can speak up and voice their opinions, they are more likely to participate in problem solving and to bring concerns to managers so that they can be discussed and solved together.

Consultative leadership can also serve to develop admirable traits in a leader and to make them an approachable figure to those they manage. Traits a leader can develop through exercise of the consultative style include humility and the ability to communicate as equals with anyone.

Most people want to be listened to, consulted with. Having input is powerful, and involved employees feel that power as morale strengthening. We know staff members with higher morale produce more because they are more engaged and higher productivity yields more profitability.

In Summary

Consultative leadership takes leaders willing to place importance on the development and opinions of ownership of decisions. There is a higher level of dependence on the ability of the entire group, and knowledge is more readily shared.

In the long haul, consultative leadership often outlasts other styles. As the organisation matures, the leader has to learn to move away from instruction to empowerment.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.