Research concludes this is best approach to leadership.


There's nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. — Victor Hugo

Style is the outward expression of a leader's inward beliefs and attitudes toward the role of leadership.  A group of researchers led by Kurt Lewin studied different styles of leadership. Their study pinpointed three broad leadership styles that continue to be widely accepted as today’s norms…in personal, family, business and other organizational forums. 

In this blog post, I identify and overview the one they felt is far superior to the others.  

Participative Leadership

I believe the most effective contemporary management process is participative management. — Max DePree

I agree with that and the findings and conclusion of the Lewin research group.  

That isn’t my opinion alone; it’s a view validated by millions of modern era leaders who’ve adopted this style of leadership and experienced enormous success and significance.    One of those is Max DePree, a globally recognized leadership expert and for many years, the COO and CEO of The Herman Miller Company, an American organizational icon.

Participative leadership is the third, and middle-ground style, cited in the Lewin study. It is an internally (heart)-based model that focuses on people, relationships and service rather than on transactions and material things which tend to be the focus of the other two popular paradigms in today's culture.  In my view, the Participative paradigm lacks the extremes and unbalanced approaches of the Dictatorial (Authoritarian) and Delegative models cited by the researchers.

Being a heart-driven, people-centered approach explains in large part why Lewin and his researchers concluded that this is the most effective style for the majority of leadership scenarios and forums. 

How It Looks In Practice

Perhaps the most important and relevant finding in Lewin’s study was that the contributions of Participative followers were much higher in quality than those of the other groups.  That outcome is likely because the individual members of the Participative group were being led, not pushed, given emotional and spiritual support and feeling appreciated, respected and listened to by their leader. 

Being served and cared for isn’t the leadership viewpoint of leaders who adopt the Participative approach.  For them, leadership begins with service to and care of others. They highly value the thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas, talents and creativity of their followers.  They take collaborative actions that invite and actively engage followers in the decision-making processes and rewards them for their contributions.

These leaders are in charge, but they share control with their followers via covenant-based relationships.  They remove obstacles and provide the tools and resources needed to help their followers be successful.  They offer them presence, access and guidance, rather than establishing the “separation factor” that’s a distinguishing characteristic of the Authoritarian and Delegative styles.  Instead, Participative leaders become members of the follower group and allow, indeed readily encourage and reward, input from followers.  They recognize the desires all their followers have for relationship and to belong and contribute to something greater than themselves.  Therefore, they understand the power of discussion and collaboration, and they facilitate those by creating an inclusive environment that nourishes followers’ growth and their contributions to the overall effort.  


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and II took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost

Three decades ago, after disastrous consequences from following the Authoritarian model, I consciously chose to adopt the heart-based, service-oriented state-of-the-art paradigm of Participative leadership that’s centered on relationships and people rather than transactional and quantitative in its focus.  Since, my experiences, personally and observing and consulting in thousands of family and business leadership scenarios, have been that this model and style lead to elevated care, cooperation, commitment, productivity, satisfaction and morale.

Leadership is a high calling and gift from God.  It’s a big responsibility, requiring lots of effort and sacrifice….but it’s immensely rewarding when enthusiastically and wisely pursued!  I’m obviously biased toward an approach to that calling, gift and responsibility in which leaders understand that their role is to be agents of positive transformation by believing in and helping their followers rise above mediocrity to achieve their highest possible potential.  This is the “road less traveled.”  BUT, when practiced it leads to out-of-this world inside transformation and superior outward results with amazing rewards! 

The winds of change are blowing over leadership worldwide…millions are renouncing the old, obsolete paradigm and adopting the new, state-of-the-art, heart-driven's an idea whose time has come! 

About the Author

Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker.  Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services.  

Below are the covers of Cecil's new and critically acclaimed leadership book.  It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other retail book stores and Cecil's online bookstore.  Click here to learn more and purchase your copy: