Democratic Decision Making


Democratic Decision Making

Democratic decision making works well when choices are clear cut, when your team is well informed, and when your culture embraces majority rule.


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Independent Collaborative
Hierarchical Egalitarian
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Majority rules.

Democratic decision making is when a leader gives up authority over a decision and presents a series of options to the full group to vote on. The option accepted by the majority of the group is then enacted. 

The democratic system, or “rule of the majority,” is usually traced to ancient Greek city states, although it’s probable that people have been voting in one form or another throughout human history. 


  • Transparent process
  • Perceived as fair
  • People easily grasp where the process begins and ends (unlike consensus and consent)


  • Vulnerable to groupthink or political campaigning
  • Majority feels little need to compromise with minority
  • Lack of ownership on implementing decisions - “I didn’t vote for that!” 

The Process

  1. Assess the situation and develop your options
  2. Call a meeting for voting
  3. Designate an advocate for each option
  4. Hold a timed debate between the advocates
  5. Vote (yes, no, abstain)
  6. Count the votes and continue voting if a stalemate exists

Avoid These Common Traps

Fear of dissent
Because voting visibly pits one group against another, participants who tend to avoid conflict may remain silent even if they have valuable insights to contribute. Before voting begins and factions have the chance to emerge, ask participants to write down their position and any questions they may have.

Tensions escalate and groups argue disrespectfully
Remind everyone of their shared purpose and if necessary, take a break so that parties have a moment to cool off.

The tyranny of the majority
If you use voting repeatedly, there's a good chance that low-powered constituents or diverse viewpoints will be repeatedly overruled. First, be sure to restrict voting rights to the people who will be directly affected by the decision (i.e., don't give the whole company say over the type of desk just one team uses). Second, consider giving more airtime to less prominent voices during the debate.

Alternative Models

If there's time pressure and the group is very split, fall back to consultative.

Or, if the group is very split and unity is important, fallback to consent.

If you see either as a possibility, it’s best to warn the group up front that you might switch to an alternative model.