Facilitative leadership – The Korea Times

Facilitative leadership – The Korea Times

Facilitative leadership

By Kim Jong-nam

Leaders have such complex issues to deal with that it can often seem impossible to be on top of everything. Facilitative leadership, in which leaders adjust their actions based on followers’ opinions and perspectives, is seen as a possible solution to this issue. For this reason, it is becoming popular for leaders to work on their facilitation skills.

However, there are some common misunderstandings that leaders need to be aware of in order to be more effective.

First, it is important to remember that facilitation skills are merely “skills” and not leadership itself. In particular, when leaders are in a rush to use their newly gained facilitation skills without making an effort to understand the context in which organizational problems arise and how the characteristics need to be considered, they will not be able to effectively attack the problem. There are some moments during which it is best to collect as many ideas or opinions as possible, others in which it is best to solve the problem directly and others in which leaders must share information with followers. Some leaders may commit the blunder of confusing these occasions because they are more focused on utilizing their facilitation skills rather than thinking about what is truly necessary for the context. In meetings or workshops, the prerequisite is to figure out what problems we have and what solutions will help us. Once the true purpose of the gathering is understood, the right approaches, the participation methods and the needed skills can then be defined. In terms of leadership, sharing points of view and environmental understandings can be more impactful than showing facilitation skills themselves.

Second, when leaders execute facilitation skills, they are confused about whether more value should be placed on their opinions or the ones of their followers. Since leaders conduct meetings or workshops or lead participants, they tend to operate based on their own subjective views, curiosities or thoughts. However, facilitation should focus on collective opinions, not the opinions or ideas that are deemed to be the most “valuable,” which are usually those of the leader. Once this is understood, a deeper understanding of the process and how to get followers involved will come naturally, and leaders will stop being obsessed with their own ways. Followers will become more responsive and active when their collective opinions and ideas are reflected in the management of their organization. In terms of leadership, understanding how to motivate followers can be more impactful than focusing only on obtaining results as soon as possible.

Third, leaders may become anxious about getting opinions when followers’ levels of engagement or concentration are low. They become overly obsessed with the thought that the collective opinion matters, which makes them more anxious and sensitive. However, facilitation skills, which emphasize the collective resolution of a problem, are not always applicable in some organizational situations such as when experts or experienced professionals are necessary. Many leaders who are interested in executing facilitation skills and becoming facilitative leaders commit the occasional mistake of thinking that collective opinions are the best tool at any moment or situation. That is why many leaders who evaluate themselves as facilitative leaders make the mistake of giving unconditional equality to participants and keep themselves busy counting the votes. The unconditional application of facilitation skills without regard to purpose, time, participants and desired outcomes is not wise. Followers respect leaders who know how to create successful results much more than those who are preoccupied with confusing processes.

Fourth, leaders are prone to the mistake of focusing too much on either work or interpersonal relationships. Since many leaders think they need to use facilitation skills to resolve organizational issues, they may be overly focused on work outcomes and ignore relationships. On the other hand, some leaders may think that their facilitation skills can be more effective when they maintain good relationships among the participants, which means they ignore work outcomes. However, if the facilitation skills are truly effective, both work outcomes and interpersonal relationships will be enhanced and supported. In terms of leadership, followers will expect their leaders to facilitate both, rather than focusing on only one.

Leadership is not just about how and what skills to use. It is more about how to understand a group’s perspective and connect it to the organizational context. It is difficult, but it is important, to approach human beings or organizations without forgetting their essence. Facilitation skills and facilitative leadership, which should encourage human group activities, are not exceptions. This is also true regardless of whatever agenda leaders and followers are dealing with, whichever process they are in, or whatever participants they are with. If leaders truly want to become facilitative leaders, they need to ask themselves about the essence they want to focus on, because these are moments when they can show the participants true leadership. Facilitation skills can be so meaningful when leaders focus on the essence, and not the skills themselves.
Kim Jong-nam is the founding CEO of META (www.imeta.co.kr) and a global organizational development consultant who specializes in organizational culture and leadership.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.