Volunteers and leadership styles

Directive leadership versus facilitative leadership: Which is right for your volunteer and the task?

Have you ever thought about leadership styles? Each person’s leadership style is unique because of their training, past experiences and future aspirations. If you research leadership styles, you’ll find thousands of books have been written on the topic as well as websites and self-assessments to categorize your own leadership style.

When we think about volunteers as leaders, it’s likely you’ll find volunteers have unique leadership styles too. It’s helpful to understand volunteer leadership, especially when delegating tasks or asking volunteers to provide leadership to other volunteers. According to Michigan State University Extension, two simple categories leadership can be put into include directive leadership and facilitative leadership.

Directive leadership

The following are descriptions of directive leadership styles, according to Directive Leadership from TechnoFunc.

  • Gives instructions.
  • Sets expectations, establishes timelines and communicates performance standards.
  • One-way communications flows from leader to followers.
  • Facilitates  planning, scheduling and communication patterns.
  • Focus on accuracy and eliminates time-consuming mistakes.

Facilitative leadership

The following are descriptions of facilitative leadership, according to “The Art of Facilitative Leadership: Maximizing Others’ Contributions” by Jeffrey Cufaude.

  • Uses active listening skills including paraphrasing, summarizing, reflecting and questioning.
  • Encourages and generates participative discussion in groups.
  • Helps simulate creative thinking through brainstorming.
  • Designs meeting processes to accomplish a wide range of goals and objectives.
  • Draws out others’ opinions in an objective and nonjudgmental manner.
  • Supports teams in various stages of group development.
  • Helps shape more powerful and strategic questions for exploration.

Can you think of examples of when you have had to exhibit each of these leadership styles? Can you think of times when you have asked volunteers to act in leadership roles where directive leadership was needed? What about facilitative leadership?

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