What kind of leader are you and is that working effectively?

Different leadership styles can encourage or discourage teamwork.

If you think critically, how well do you actually “work with others” on your team?

Your personal leadership style plays an important role in shaping behavior and attitudes of each team member.

Rose Johnson in5 Different Types of Leadership Styles notes characteristics, advantages and drawbacks of various approaches, including the heavy-handed leader, Laissez-Faire” leader and Collaborative leader. Each one may be useful at times, but none should be practiced to exclusion.

Are you a heavy-handed leader who manages with a demanding style? This dominant leadership approach is often perceived as blatantly aggressive. You make decisions without consulting team members – because you believe it is not really necessary. You are the boss, and that is simply a fact. When you ask for something, you expect it to happen, NOW! During planning sessions, you push for your own ideas. If you use someone else’s idea, you decide based on your preferences, not others. You might think making decisions by consensus is weak. You do not give positive reinforcement for ideas or efforts – after all, people are simply doing what is expected.

Perhaps you really do not like being a leader; you are in effect, a non-leader or “Laissez-Faire” leader. You think that people should make their own decisions, so you are reluctant to offer many suggestions. You let the group do whatever they want. You prefer to give guidance rather than orders. You are aware of the good things your group is accomplishing, but do not go out of your way to praise people for their efforts.

Maybe you are a collaborative leader. You make sure all group members contribute ideas in the discussion phase. You ask questions like: does anyone else have other ideas? What do the rest of you think? As a leader, you try to make decisions that benefit as many people as possible. You are good at facilitating compromise and consensus. You do not want anyone to feel like you made an unfair decision. It is important to get general agreement from the group before finalizing plans. You encourage creativity and input. You give positive comments when people make suggestions.

This style is also known as facilitative leadership. It is characteristic when people ignore personal agendas to pursue a common goal. Their focus is on forming a team that strengthens over time. People pool their abilities and resources to address complex issues and achieve outcomes that are not likely to be reached otherwise.

The role of the facilitative leader is to establish a climate of trust, ensure that all key partners/interest groups are represented, help participants develop a common purpose and keep that goal clearly in focus. They make it easier for group members to take initiative, contribute ideas, make decisions, speak up about problems, share expertise and share responsibility for success. A facilitative leader will guide the team through the difficult steps of envisioning and actually creating change, involving them in thoughtful review of all efforts, and helping the team plan for the future, to continue their work together or address new shared challenges.

Learn more about Facilitative Leadership by visiting the Michigan State University Extension website.

The MSU Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers educational programs in several leadership areas, including communicating through conflict, volunteer board development, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning.

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