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The Role of Facilitative Leadership in Project Management

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/24/2011

If you've been looking to learn about the role of facilitative leadership in project management, what facilitative management is, and how it differs from other styles of leadership found in project management, you've come to the right place. Learn about what this style of leadership is here.

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    What is Facilitative Leadership?

    How does facilitative leadership differ from other leadership styles? Facilitative leaders work hard to help team members reach their full potential. An individual exhibiting facilitative leadership qualities seeks to ensure all members of the project team participate in their assigned roles. Facilitative leaders help their team members to deliver their thoughts in a clear, concise manner, and look to get participants in the group to agree.

    It's important when looking at facilitative leadership and the roles of leaders who demonstrate such qualities to understand the purpose behind the facilitative style: to bring all employees and team members to a place where there are better solutions to problems, better results from projects, and where more strategic objectives are met by all team members. Other qualities exhibited by the facilitative leader include:

    • Asking directed questions to team members to elicit honest, well thought-out answers
    • Co-creating a vision of success with team members to facilitate success
    • Creating meetings where each member of the meeting performs at his or her highest abilities
    • Creating shared values amongst team members
    • Coaching team members and meeting team members at the places where they are at to help them perform to the best of their abilities
    • Looking at the whole picture and the relationships between individuals when determining what is best for their company
    • Rewarding team efforts and accomplishments through celebration and motivational means

    When thinking about the critical leadership practices that lead to project success, it would seem as though facilitative styles of leadership do fit in with what is expected of successful project leaders. Rather than taking an authoritative stance, the facilitative leader instead uses the group's diverse makeup to utilize the diverse perspectives of the individuals making up the group in order to determine what the best practices should be. Facilitative leaders are proactive, and they rely upon group ability and getting the group to come together.

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    How Does This Style of Leadership Differ From Others?

    There are several styles of leadership. Facilitative leadership traditionally has been grouped with a leadership style otherwise known as "transformational," and in some circumstances, facilitative leadership and transformational leadership are used interchangeably. However, there is a key difference between the two styles: Transformational leadership focuses on change that restructures the organization while maintaining a commitment to core organizational values. The facilitative style focuses on drawing on group strengths to maintain a commitment to organizational values.

    Charismatic leadership is a hierarchical form of leadership where the leader uses his or her own charm in order to appeal to team members. Charismatic leaders don't expect team members to follow due to the hierarchy or an appeal to authority; rather, charismatic leaders expect team members to follow due to devotion.

    Visionary leadership involves a leader who thinks not only of the organization's current structure and goals, but who also thinks of future goals and directions an organization can take. Visionary leaders partner with group members to create a shared vision for the future of the organization, but they are different in that they focus upon solutions rather than on problem solving methods.

    Traditional leadership is the leadership style least like facilitative leadership. Traditional leadership styles feature the authoritative leader who directs team members as to what their responsibilities are and hand down the decisions rather thank seeking imput on decisions from the group.

    Those who practice the servant leadership style may seem to be facilitative leaders. The main difference between those practicing facilitative leadership and those who are servant leaders is the fact that servant leaders are those individuals who empower subordinate employees and give them the tools for performance improvement. While facilitative leadership does empower team members, it does so as a collaboration of all individuals together as a unit.

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    Why Use a Facilitative Leadership Style in Project Management?

    Project management, at least successful project management, requires good communication amongst team members, and strong team cohesion between members. Facilitative leadership supports these goals in a number of ways. First, facilitative leaders ensure that they hear the concerns of all team members. Listening to team member concerns, and addressing concerns is an important part of facilitating a successful project.

    In addition to encouraging good communication, facilitative leaders also encourage collaboration between team members. Rather than seeing themselves as an authoritative figure, leaders following the facilitative style of leadership encourage team members to work with one another, come to agreement on key project strategic objectives, and to solve problems as a unit.

    Another way facilitative leadership works better with project management than traditional leadership or servant leadership styles is that new project management methodologies rely upon being able to rapidly adjust to a changing environment. Facilitative leaders are ready to deal with any risks that occur whether running an agile project or a traditional project. This is because they draw on the strengths of those individuals who they lead and coordinate everyone's efforts by employing the expertise they hold.

    By having team members involved in the project, and by requiring consensus between team members on important project points, facilitative leaders can help to build projects that are successful. Facilitative leadership is especially important in change management projects where such consensus is vital.

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    Is Facilitative Leadership Always Best?

    While there are many benefits to using a facilitative leadership style in project management, it's also important to understand when a facilitative style might not be best for the project at hand. For instance, one of the key disadvantages of facilitative leadership is that it does not leave a clear line of accountability as do other leadership styles. Also, team members who are used to being followers may find it confusing when they are expected to be part of the decision-making process.

    Facilitative leadership may not be the best leadership style in times when deadlines are tight, when the project has been flailing, or when there has been a disaster the company or project must recover from. In times like these, a more traditional leadership style may be better suited for those involved.

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    References:

    Lashway, L. (1996/97). "Leadership Strategies." Research Roundup. Vol. 13, No. 2. http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED402685.pdf

    Facilitative Leadership Training Institute http://www.facilitativeleader.com/frset_fl.htm

    Image courtesy of sxc.hu/gallery/cobrasoft



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