Facilitative leadership is the exercising of communication skills, social skills to achieve a collaborative approach.
The concept of this approach has evolved over time, and has emerged from the more familiar term "transformational leadership" which is all about inspiring employees to look beyond self-interest and focus on wider organisational goals.
Key to this is the emphasis on "collective ability" and the facilitative leader's role is to ensure the wider involvement of people at all levels - especially in the informal networks.
Whilst the command-control hierarchy remains intact - and it needs to for the exercising of legal authority to ratify decisions - in contrast to centralised command-control transactional leadership, the power here is based on synergy and mutuality and is multi-directional.
Key strategies that are employed include:
Resolving resource issues
Conflict management and resolution
These involve processes that thrive on informal negotiation and communication.
Facilitative leadership and informal networks
This is a leadership style that recognises the disconnects that occur when:
(1) Command control top-down management styles cause senior executives to become remote from direct the frontline and the effects and human costs of their decisions.
(2) An organisation's natural leaders and informal networks are neither recognised nor consulted.
“There is no such thing as a singular success”
Facilitative leadership also recognises that no one has a monopoly of talent, ideas or solutions and that organisational success is a group effort.
As an old business friend of mine use to put it: “There is no such thing as a singular success”!
From my own experience, I have found time and time again that the answers to the most challenging business issues, project and programme failures and performance problems always - without exception lies with the front line staff - those directly involved in "doing it".
The importance of trust
These strategies and processes rely on an intrinsic belief system based on trust:
"...a letting go of control and an increasing belief that others can and will function independently and successfully within a common framework of expectations and accountability." (Conley & Goldman 1994)
The equal importance of 4 perspectives
Facilitative leadership also require a broader perspective than traditional command-control leadership. Bolman and Terry (1991) identified a framework of 4 perspectives:
(1) The factual perspective - focusing on the formal and legal demands of the system, such as goals, policies, and constraints.
(2) The emotional perspective - which considers the human needs of those involved and impacted.
(3) The cultural perspective - that addresses the values, rites, and rituals that forms the invisible "glue" of the organisation.
(4) The political perspective - that addresses the way that people pursue their own agendas and interests.
Bolman (et al) observe that few leaders utilise more than two of these perspectives - which is hardly a surprise!
But facilitative leadership recognises the equal importance of all 4 perspectives and requires the use of all perspectives, flexibly and adaptively, as the needs of the situation dictate.
# Facilitative leaders exercise advanced communication skills
The purpose of this is to build a shared perception. These 3 techniques can help ensure that your people are involved in the change management process and that they are assured of your interest:
Confirming- when you confirm, you verify that you understand what the other person said. This usually involves restating what you've heard and asking for verification.
Acknowledging- shows that you value what the other person has said.
Bridging- makes links and a connection between points you have both made.
# Facilitative leaders create the environment where people want to participate
There are 2 key components to emsuring that people do feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for an outcome:
(1) To harness the emotional dynamic of the group - so that they feel the possibilities of belonging and cooperating together as a group for the greater good of the group.
(2) Personalise it - people need to feel emotionally what it will mean to them personally. They need to feel the personal impact of the change, and the more they feel it the more they will prioritise it - because it matters to them personally.
It takes thought and skill to translate the broader change messages into highly targeted and personalised impacts.
Once these areas have been addressed, it is natural for the facilitative leaders to ask rather than tell groups what they need to be doing, and to ask them what help they need to move forward rather than attempting to control their activities.
# Facilitative leaders encourage people to “speak the unspeakable”
Facilitative leaders encourage people to identify and discuss important issues they may be unaware of or unwilling to address - I call this “speaking the unspeakable”.
These are often issues that are felt to be “too sensitive”, “politically difficult” or just plain fraught to be easily and openly expressed.
Yet it is very often these difficult issues that are key to unblocking log-jams.
As change leader you achieve this by providing the tools, language and process to make this possible.