What is democratic leadership?

Edmund Burke said that an MP “owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”

In these days of conversation about how democratic an organisation could/should be I think it’s worth considering the above. That democracy isn’t a straight vote on every topic, but the choice of representation – not always possible in organisations. I like Burke’s point that popular and right are not always in alignment – and that the MP/leader has an accountability to do what they believe to be right.

In business, as well as in politics, there is an imbalance in the distribution of information and leaders need conviction as well as the ability to listen. Leading involves decision making and clarity. Leading involves both being being able to resist the wish to be popular AND the humility to understand you are not always right. It’s a tough pair of challenges to reconcile.

In any change there is a requirement of the leader to understand their part in it – what they believe and what they are influencing. How they are bringing the best possible future into a position where it is the most likely. It’s a tricky balance.

Which wins out of right and popular? Which should win? How often do you get to be both together?

My guess is leaders don’t often reflect enough on these trade offs. The best I’ve seen create a trust that the path they advocate is the right one. I imagine that is also their Achilles Heel too. It’s complex.

(inspired by some shares from Karen Teago and this article I randomly ended up on after some clicks…. I don’t normally read The New Statesman)

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