The Benefits of Participative Leadership

Supervisors who invite ideas or opinions and include employees in decision making are engaging in participative leadership behavior. Not surprisingly, it tends to positively impact employee job performance. Although this effect is expected for all employees, a recent study (Huang, Iun, Liu, & Gong, 2010) suggests that the reasons why participative leadership behavior leads to improved performance depends on a subordinate’s hierarchical level in the organization.


In their study, the researchers used a sample of 527 employees from a Fortune 500 telecommunications company in China. As expected, they found that participative leadership behavior of supervisors leads to improved task performance and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) of their subordinates. Organizational citizenship behavior means going the extra mile, beyond formal job requirements. But, as mentioned above, there appear to be slightly different reasons why these effects occur depending on the hierarchical level of the subordinate (i.e., managerial versus non-managerial).

When it comes to employees who are managers themselves, the positive effects of participative leadership behavior appears to be due to psychological empowerment, or feelings of competence and meaningfulness. For non-managers, these effects are due to the trust placed in leaders.


According to the researchers, these findings suggest that managerial and non-managerial employees interpret the participative leadership behaviors of their supervisors differently. While non-managerial employees seem to focus on trust in their supervisor, managerial employees seem to focus on the increased autonomy and empowerment resulting from participative leadership behaviors.

Despite the differences identified, the results suggest that participative leadership behaviors have a positive impact on employee psychological empowerment, trust in the leaders, and ultimately job performance (task performance and OCBs).

Huang, X., Iun, J., Liu, A., & Gong, Y. (2010). Does participative leadership enhance
work performance by inducing empowerment or trust? The differential effects on

managerial and non-managerial subordinates. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(1), 122-143.