The Lessons of Participative Leadership
Updated: Jun 12
Table of Contents
A sturdy and successful product management team relies on the diversity of each individual with distinct backgrounds and perspectives coming together.
If you’re an individual with a calling to be an exceptional and profound product leader, you have certainly questioned what it takes. As you will find, one of the commonalities is that they build both people and products.
Participative leaders recognize the positive effects of diversity when building their product teams. Especially when leaders understand their limitations, they can realize the experiences and strengths needed to balance out what they may lack - remedied by a diverse team. These leaders engage and groom more intelligent team members.
Additionally, they encourage their team members to voice their concerns and bring innovative ideas to help solve customer problems that exist today and in the future. These product team members challenge assumptions of the status quo and bring in disparate perspectives.
What is participative leadership?
Participative leadership can be defined as a leadership methodology that emphasizes participation and collaboration.
Product leaders work with their cross-disciplinary teams for assessment, discovery, innovation, knowledge, and insights instead of making decisions independently. However, this does not mean product leaders do not have eventual decision-making accountability. Nevertheless, participative leadership signifies that PMs recognize their cross-functional teams may have the perspectives and abilities to bring about exceptional solutions to the customer problems they are trying to solve.
This encompasses the whole product management team. The participative leadership approach envisions that product leaders work with their partners to build trusting relationships.
Why is participative leadership important in product management?
You’ve heard the old saying, “It takes a village.” When it comes to researching, designing, developing, building, launching, marketing, selling, and supporting products, it takes a village with many individuals with many different strengths to bring the product vision to fruition.
Participative product leaders embody efficacy because they know how to steer concurrency via engagement. They drive discussion and active engagement, which is required for organizations immersed in creativity, imagination, uniqueness, and innovation.
Participative product leaders include their product management team in decision-making, and they construct consensus through inclusion. This leadership style is highly effective because it enhances the total employee experience, accountability, and proprietorship while strengthening inspiration, imagination, and education. Product leaders tend to find this leadership style imperative when making crucial product determinations that will significantly impact their customers and organization. The team’s accession is needed for producing innovativeness, imaginativeness, and creativeness.
How to encourage participation and engagement in cross-disciplinary teams.
Here are a few things I put into practice to help build participation and engagement within cross-disciplinary teams:
1. Engagement and collaboration
When an established participative culture genuinely drives engagement, trust, and collaboration, multidisciplinary team members feel safe to bring a diversity of hypotheses, proposals, concepts, and ideas to their team members. When they feel safe, they are encouraged to have genuine, earnest thinking, leading them to solve customer problems and provide value. Research has also demonstrated that when employees are in a team with a culture that drives participation and collaboration, there tend to be outstanding effects and more significant business success.
For organizations to get the best business results, they must be inclusive of cultural diversity and have individuals working concertedly and cross-functionally. Companies that practice diversity management tend to have disparate teams, bringing more ingenuity, original ideas, and breakthroughs to the table.
Of course, this is because they have team members from distinct backgrounds, who bring diverse, empowering points of view that allow for more innovative, creative concepts leading to more precise assessments. Additionally, when the total employee experience increases, organizational attrition decreases.
2. Encouragement and recognition
To build effective, best-in-class products, organizations need ingeniousness and creative power. Usually, it's divergent thinkers who provide ingeniousness. For these team members to bring their ideas to the team, they need a product culture that promotes the freedom to dream big, be imaginative, and where ideas and employees are both valued and respected.
Product leaders are envisioned to be innovative and have the capabilities to pioneer solutions with the ability to solve customer problems. However, they must also cultivate and support their cross-functional teams’ collaborative, innovative capabilities. Everyone will bring about an affluent assortment of innovative concepts with different ways of thinking, approaches, and experiences.
Participative product leaders recompense their multi-functional teams for resourcefulness and innovation by providing real-time assessment. Our colleagues want to be well-regarded and applauded for doing extraordinary work and bringing concepts to fruition that help solve customer problems, especially when those products help their organization accomplish its goals and objectives.
Additionally, participative product leaders also celebrate defeats and failures because sometimes product teams are anxious to take chances when they are afraid of failing. So, when a cross-disciplinary team tries to build one of its concepts and fails, its product leader leads a celebration of the upsides, silver linings, and advantages. The team can celebrate that they collaborated and engaged in a project outside their norm to bring about innovation. They also make a point to rejoice in taking imaginative possibilities and, at times, discovering failure prior to their success.
Participative product leaders celebrate both failures and wins to keep their cross-functional teams encouraged and inspired.
Trust in multi-functional teams shows that product leaders and their organizations foster a culture of openness that inspires psychological safety for employees. They feel secure in their jobs, safe to ask questions, challenge the status quo, bring the team new out-of-box concepts, and voice their points of view and experiences. Moreover, they are also willing to go above and beyond to help their companies meet their objectives and goals.
With trustworthiness in place, individuals tend to be fearless, enthusiastic and inspired to help build solutions that will solve customer problems for today and in the future because they feel empowered, fortified to develop professionally, and they have autonomy. Employee engagement is boosted, which is an upshot to higher-quality work and better outcomes for their organizations.
When participative product leaders give precedence to trust, they can also establish a diverse and inclusive culture where team members feel a sense of affinity for inclusion and are more affiliated with their team.
A participative product leader’s ability to hearten trust in their cross-functional teams and be authentic, virtuous, and unwavering is paramount when inspiring, influencing, and motivating team members. It is of the utmost importance, especially when the team faces adversity and when they need to preside over difficult circumstances.
Product leaders who exemplify participative leadership tend to end up with cross-functional teams that can dream big and bring innovative ideas to solve current and future customer problems. Because these individuals feel appreciated and have the freedom to be groundbreaking, their employee participation and team spirit increase as they also partake in decision-making. Even if they disagree with the conclusion and determinations, they understand why the decisions were made.
Participative product leaders are influential because they build people and products. They develop meaningful and trusting relationships with their scrum team, partner teams, teammates, and leadership.
In my experience, the outcome of investing and nurturing people produces driven individuals who work together with every part of their organization to fulfill their product vision, which is a win for their customers and the organization.