Facilitative leaders foster a positive environment

There are inherent limitations to the practice of traditional autocratic leadership.

In Defining Leadership, Leading Resources for Resourceful Leaders, key assumptions regarding traditional leadership styles are compared.Autocratic leaders typically make decisions with little input, and closely monitor how their decisions are carried out. This is often considered strong leadership, as people know the exact direction to take, what is required and expected to get there.

Autocratic leadership may work well in situations when people want clarity and direction, especially if poor performance is an issue or if there is a threat to the organization and quick decisive responses are required. This style of leadership could be helpful for inexperienced or unmotivated staff.

A crucial weakness in autocratic leadership is that discussion and questioning of decisions is not encouraged, and people may feel resentment about decisions that are imposed upon them.

Good ideas may not be heard, which doesn’t motivate team members to show interest in growing leadership skills. This may make people dependent on the leader to solve all the problems.

In contrast, facilitative leaders help the team make decisions and get things done by recognizing the collective knowledge and talents of each team member. Mother Theresa wisely stated, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”

Facilitative leadership methods may be viewed as utilizing “soft” people skills to make decisions; sometimes requiring more time than the unquestionable direct autocratic leadership style.   

Facilitative leadership requires building relationships within the group and to create safety and enable each person to share ideas and concerns. People should feel free to explore personal values and common interests related to the topic.

Facilitative leaders must communicate effectively, using both verbal and non-verbal skills to provide positive feedback and make sure that all ideas are heard and understood.  This can be accomplished through active listening – staying positively engaged with all participant comments.

Asking questions is an important aspect of facilitative leadership – make sure everyone understands what has been stated; ask for clarification of certain points, and why that point is important. Also ask what viewpoints are not represented; what has not been considered that is relevant to the issue?

The Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers professional development training, including volunteer board development, communicating through conflict, meeting management and facilitation skills development

The next Facilitative Leadership workshop, Sept. 14 - 16, 2016 is now open for registration.  Location of the workshop is Louhelen Baha’i School - Retreat and Conference Center, 3208 S. State Rd., Davison Township, MI 48423. If all seats are taken, still sign up for the waiting list. 

To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu/  or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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