An essential question for any person in a position of power to ask themselves is, “what are my goals as a leader?” Of course, the answer to this question will vary widely depending on the business they work in and the personality of the individual leader.
If your answer to that question is that you want to know the people who work for you and help them succeed, then Facilitative Leadership may be a good choice for you.
What Is Facilitative Leadership?
A Facilitative leader seeks to maximize the contributions of others. They provide support and guidance that allows their followers to perform at their best. By encouraging participation and actively listening to their team’s needs, Facilitative leaders boost motivation and increase morale for everyone who works with them.
A primary goal of these leaders is to create an atmosphere where employees feel empowered by their own skills and supported in working together to achieve shared goals. For example, instead of telling people what to do, a Facilitative leader will work with their staff to find the best ways to do things together.
The development of this leadership style is credited to David Conley and Paul Goldman in 1994. They initially described it as a method that school principals could use to be more effective in their roles. According to them, Facilitative Leadership is “the behaviors that enhance the collective ability of a school to adapt, solve problems, and improve performance.”
- Active Listeners
Listening is an integral part of using this style of Leadership. Facilitative leaders have a desire to understand the people that work for them. In order to get to know their team better, they must ask questions and actively listen. Doing this allows them to play to the strengths of their staff as well as build more deeply connected relationships founded on trust and communication.
- Provide clarity and purpose
One strength of these types of leaders is that they can help to clarify the goals and purpose of the organization. This is incredibly helpful in keeping staff motivated and driven. When everyone is striving toward the same goal, people will be more likely to work together and have a desire to succeed.
- Make connections
Facilitative leaders want to guide people so that they can do their best. As a leader, they may have insight into issues that others may not have. Because of their deep level of understanding of the people around them, a Facilitative leader may be able to connect individual workers or teams that may have not otherwise been working together. This can lead to more creative problem solving and collaboration within the organization.
- Encourage participation through discussions
They will ask thoughtful questions that lead the group to better problem solving. Instead of telling people what to do or how to do it, these leaders will try to guide their staff to the best conclusions on their own. Allowing employees to have a say in how things are done increases morale and creates a more positive work environment.
- Increased motivation and dedication
Employees are encouraged to participate in the workplace. Because of this, they will feel a stronger sense of dedication to the company. When people feel more invested in the work they are doing, their long-term motivation will be higher. In addition, Facilitative Leadership fosters a strong sense of ownership for the work that is being done. Employees will perform at a higher level and be motivated to do the best job they can when they feel a sense of pride in their efforts.
- Encourages innovation
As they say, two heads are better than one. In that spirit, a group of people may be able to brainstorm ideas and find new solutions to problems that one person may not have considered. A Facilitative leader encourages these types of interactions between staff members. Building an environment for collaboration, rather than competition, can make people more comfortable proposing new ideas and thinking outside the box.
- Building stronger people and teams
Facilitative leaders have an interest in helping the people that work for them to become better. By actively listening to their employees, they can gain a better understanding of their needs and areas for improvement. A leader that is connected to their team will be more effective when it comes to helping their staff in their personal and professional growth.
- Group decision making can become chaotic
While there are many benefits to having decision making be a collaborative effort, it can sometimes hinder progress. For example, in the cases where action needs to be taken quickly, or the issue is complex and there are many conflicting opinions, it may be challenging to reach a group consensus.
- Facilitating conversations requires skill
Facilitating and guiding discussions in a focused and productive way is a skill that not every person possesses. It can take time to learn how to do this effectively; it may even require going to a seminar or class. An unskilled person at the helm of these discussions can lead to disarray and confusion. Meetings and conferences could become just a waste of time.
- Potential lack of accountability
Because these leaders focus on allowing people to make their own decisions or come to conclusions as a group, it can become difficult to place the blame if something goes wrong. Who should be held accountable for mistakes becomes more unclear. Suppose someone lacking integrity was using this style of leadership. In that case, they may try to push all of the consequences of bad leadership onto their staff.
How to Implement
- Be Authentic
In order for this style of Leadership to be the most useful, the person using it must have a genuine desire to help people succeed. Empathy is a crucial element of both active listening and effectively facilitating conversations. This is not something that can be faked. If you don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to it, another style of leadership may be more appropriate.
- Empower employees
The strength of facilitative leaders lies in their ability to ask questions and lead people to make good decisions on their own. Dictating exactly how things should be done directly is counterproductive. A facilitative leader must be able to let go of some of the control and trust that they have given their employees the tools they need to succeed independently.
- Stay focused
It is important for someone using Facilitative Leadership to keep their own goals in mind when they are supporting those of others. There may come a time when the needs of the workers are at odds with those of the company or the leader themself. Handling these situations requires tact and communication. Remaining focused on the objectives of the work and the desired outcomes for the organization is crucial to the success of these leaders.
When to avoid
- Under a time crunch
Because of the collaborative nature of this style of Leadership, it does not always produce rapid results. There may be situations that require a level of speed that Facilitative Leadership is unable to meet, at least initially. It also takes time for a person to become adept at using this leadership style. A high level of effective communication is required, which is a skill that some people may need to take the time to learn.
- Workplaces with a high level of conflict
Since there is such a heavy emphasis on teamwork and open communication in this leadership style, it will not be as effective if team members cannot get along. While a Facilitative leader can excel at working through occasional or minor conflicts between workers, it may become overwhelming if the disputes are constant. Likewise, if discussions about workflow or new ideas are frequently derailed by issues with personnel, a Facilitative leader may struggle to push the team forward.
- In large groups
This leadership style is best suited for smaller workgroups or teams. Attempting to synthesize the input and opinions of too many people before making a decision can be a slow and unproductive process. It will also be difficult to build genuine relationships between the leader and a high number of staff members. Any person only has so much energy which they can dedicate to actively listening and empathizing with others, and spreading yourself too thin in this regard will quickly lead to burnout.
Facilitative Leadership Examples
Since most of the initial research for this leadership style was focused on school principals, they are the classic example. It is easy to see how Facilitative Leadership would be a good fit for that environment. Principals are expected to know the teachers who work for them and be able to provide guidance that will be beneficial to the entire school. They must be ready to listen to the needs and problems of both the students and the teachers. Without an authentic desire to empathize and understand these groups, they will fail.
Because this leadership style is so versatile, we can imagine ways that it can be effective in many scenarios. Ad agencies, tech companies, or non-profit organizations are a few examples that could truly benefit from having a leader that encourages working together and coming up with new solutions to old problems as a group. These leaders are also great at empowering workers to become more self-sufficient and confident in their skills.
Famous Facilitative Leaders
- Jim Lentz
Formerly the CEO of Toyota, Lentz is remembered for his ability to handle difficult situations during his time in that position.
In 2009, there was a massive recall on Toyota vehicles. This was a major blow to the company’s credibility, and public opinion quickly turned against them. As a response to this, Lentz hosted an open forum on their website in which he would personally answer questions that people had. While it wasn’t a perfect response, and it was indeed a tricky situation all around for the company, Lentz led by example and put himself out there.
- Jack Stahl
In his career, Stahl became the youngest CEO of Coca-Cola, at just 36, and then went on to become the the CEO of the Revlon beauty company. At both companies, he was able to increase their profitability and efficiency.
When talking about his leadership style, Stahl often puts emphasis on the people. He has an excellent skill for making people feel appreciated and supported. By wielding this skill, he was able to maximize the productivity of his employees and help the companies reach new heights of financial success.
While every organization is different and has its own unique needs and concerns, Facilitative Leadership can be a highly effective tool for management across the board. Allowing workers to participate in the decisions of the company, and supporting them to grow as people, builds a sense of belonging and dedication. If your goal is to have a highly-skilled, motivated, and dedicated workforce, Facilitative Leadership can take you there.
If you have the time and drive to learn how to utilize it, this leadership style can be extremely beneficial for any company leader.