By Steven J. Lawrence © 2014
From chapter 2 of the essay All Shine: How Stewardship Built a Vision
Facilitative/Participative Leadership Now, we’re getting closer to a style of leadership that takes people and innovation into account. Leaders who take the facilitative approach encourage the participation of all members of an organization/project in key decision-making while retaining the formal authority to cast the tie-breaking vote at any time. The idea is that those closest to the action have information that is vital to informed decision-making. Thus, dialogue and input is consistently sought and then actions are taken which take into account the information that is learned.
It should be easy to see how gratifying this can be for participants in any group endeavor, whether a rock band, a hospital, or a public university. For the most part, we can expect those closest to the ground to have developed more specific expertise in their particular skill (or job) than the formal leader. Thus, it’s important to get their input for the success of the organization. Moreover, failure to get input can also cause considerable frustration and even resentment throughout the organization. If this were to persist, the organization or group project would eventually suffer from high turnover, lack of buy-in or investment, and the potential demise of the whole enterprise.
So, participation is key to morale and mission. But, sometimes, this democratic approach is not enough, and can often lead to “analysis paralysis.” At some point, after seeking the insights of others, the leader must provide explicit guidance and direction, even if some of her decisions are not universally appreciated. Pointing the way forward from the “bully pulpit” of formal authority is especially key in times of change or crisis.