We are all familiar with the typical autocratic leadership style — the “my way or the highway” mentality. But it’s not the only way to lead.

Well-known business author, Stephen Covey said, “Leadership is a choice, not a position.” Covey is suggesting not only that leadership doesn’t have to come from the top down, but that we can all act as leaders, regardless of our role or title. I’d like to suggest that each of us can become a FACILITATIVE LEADER.

Four Tenets of Facilitative Leadership

Facilitative leadership is all about maximizing others’ contributions. There are four behavior characteristics of a facilitative leader.

  • Actively listening and seeking to understand. This includes things like listening intently…asking questions…and paraphrasing what you heard.
  • Providing clarity and purpose. Facilitative leaders identify the problem that needs to be solved.  They ask and seek answers to “Why are we doing this?  Where are we trying to go?  Do you know what you’re trying to achieve? Does the team know the objective?”
  • Connecting the dots. This means making sense of all the pieces of the project or work effort, and connecting all the players (project team, sponsors, business stakeholders, change agents, etc.). How does one area impact another? What can one member do to support another’s performance? What do different teams need to know about each other and their processes or goals? A facilitative leader stimulates creative thinking through brainstorming, communication, and other activities that connect the elements of a team or organization.
  • Influencing collaboration. This involves getting all the players to work together to solve a problem — encouraging group participation. Facilitative leaders manage contrasting perspectives and opinions to minimize conflict among members of a group. For example, they design inclusive group processes that honor individuals’ different learning and participation styles, opening up the space for the more quiet individuals.

Can you be a facilitative leader – even though you’re not the boss and have a specific team and role — and still remain neutral and fair? Yes, you can.

  • Asking clarifying questions DOESN’T put you on one side of the fence or the other.
  • Bringing ALL the key players into the meeting DOESN’T make you biased.
  • Ensuring that ALL meeting participants have an opportunity to share their thoughts, DOES NOT mean you’re leaning one way or another.

Neutrality does not mean inaction or passiveness. Neutral facilitative leadership can surface solutions that make the team stronger and help reach organizational goals.

Can you be a facilitative leader?

Many of you are already facilitators. If you’re a project manager, business analyst, change lead, or process improvement specialist, you are a facilitator of change and action. Practicing the four tenets of a facilitative leader can move you from being “merely” a facilitator to being a respected facilitative leader.

And it matters. Because facilitative leaders:

  • Get everyone on the same page by applying an integrated lens.
  • Draw from the strengths of all team members and impacted areas of the business.
  • Gather divergent views and facts before deciding on a plan of action.
  • Obtain greater commitment and buy-in from impacted stakeholders.
  • Drive creativity, innovation, and brainstorming, resulting in better solutions.

Becoming a facilitative leader will make you more successful because the work you lead will be more successful. Give it a try!