Facilitative Leader Characteristics are driven by servant leadership, people-centred communications, psychological safety - Neil Fogarty runs workshops on facilitative leadership in UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Caribbean and Americas

When we talk about Facilitative Leader characteristics, we are looking for people with certain traits. This person is responsible for ensuring that every conversation moves the organisation forward.

The successful Facilitative Leader builds the collaborative intelligence of the organisation and applies process to linking human relationships to corporate results. Regardless of the interaction (1:1 conversations, meetings, away days, and so on), success is measured by how well they are curated.

In addition to skills in psychology, communications, and behaviours, we need to add the leader imperative of developing future leaders. Whereas we can replicate a process, are we equipping organisations to replicate an attitude?

Do we see a culture of facilitative leadership being built and embedded into enterprises?

And so the Facilitative Leader has an internal tension – how to build powerful relationships aligning to corporate ambition in a consistent and replicable fashion?

If we can accept that a facilitative leader is facilitator and leader in equal measurement… then what is this person? What are the traits that we should be looking for?

Win-Results In Balance

It’s worth acknowledging that some leaders can’t / won’t facilitate and some facilitators are entirely comfortable in not leading. Likewise, a Facilitative Leader can have an internal conflict between the neutrality of facilitation with old-school approaches of authoritarianism, direction, and hierarchy.

In facilitative leadership, the collective success of the organisation rests on the facilitative skills of the leader and this is a delicate act!

So here’s the first shift for the facilitative leader – adopt the traits of the Servant Leader.

In my role, I see Facilitative Leadership as being very much down the same track as Servant Leadership but less paternalistic.

Servant Leadership differs from traditional leadership where the leader’s primary focus is the growth / success of the organisation. In this context, the Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people to develop and perform.

The belief is, logically, by supporting your employees, they support the enterprise.

However, if unchecked, serving people can become imbalanced – the push for relationships outweighing the results. Facilitative Leadership recognises individual views and capabilities but is still driven by corporate results.

In the context of facilitative leadership, the person in a leadership role balances the corporate results with the individual’s personal-win. The Facilitative Leader recognises the importance of employee engagement and builds the environment of psychological safety for all.

Facilitative Leader Characteristics are driven by servant leadership, people-centred communications, psychological safety - Neil Fogarty runs workshops on facilitative leadership in UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Caribbean and Americas

Power of Facilitation

In my corporate work, I see (WAY too often) how organisations forget why they employed someone in the first place.

There is a forensic analysis of a CV prior to recruitment and then disregard from that point on.

Recruitment includes agreeing job specifications, briefing agencies, psychometric testing, interviews and references. Yet when it comes to problem solving, idea generation, achieving consensus, making decisions, and so on – how often does an organisation drill into the wider capability of the person?

The Facilitative Leader has the skills to unlock collective knowledge from within a team or group of people. Facilitators are told that “the answer’s in the room”. The Facilitative Leader appreciates this and is able to step back and let the room speak.

Psychological Safety

Facilitative Leadership is certainly about psychological safety – building employee engagement, colleague relationships, developing trust, and so on.

For this to happen, we are looking to support people in the achievement of their personal goals but always in the context of what’s good for the organisation.

This kind of duality is a driver for the Facilitative Leader where we are striving for objective conversations underpinned by subjectivity of feelings and opinions.

The art of the Facilitative Leader is to create a culture where people can recognise everyone’s beliefs; understand motivations and values; articulate ambitions… and draw it all together through facilitation processes to achieve the corporate goal.

Leader Language : LLQi

Ethical Leadership

I have been facilitating an increasing number of discussions about ethics. There is no denying that, with increasing social media exposure, the boardroom is interested in governance and compliance. People in leadership roles are influencing and guiding organisations and their ethics are under scrutiny.

In the current climate of AI, ethics is becoming paramount. Such questions as to the appropriateness of ‘spying’ on employee activity / communications, for example, are currently being ignored.

If you are to be trusted, the characteristics of the facilitative leader include going beyond talking about values and demonstrating your ethics.


Let’s consider Berne’s Transactional Analysis. When we look at the Servant Leader, we see how people are shifting from Critical Parent to Nurturing Parent. Moving from “do as I say” to encouragement and unconditional love.

The issue here is that the Parental element is paternalistic. It suggests that the leader is superior and has right to make decisions for you.

If we look at the concept of Thaler & Sunstein’s “Nudge“, we are told that it is all about libertarian paternalism – helping you to make the (right) decision. In this instance, it is about making a decision that someone else feels is for your own good.

Nudge is parenting. Facilitative Leadership is being able to achieve consensus with everyone (based on the majority; not blind obedience of all). In order to achieve this, we need to send & receive adult communications.

Leader Language : LLQi

Facilitative Leader Characteristics

So, here’s a ticklish to cap off this latest article – Leader Language helps to build a new corporate culture and here are some of the elements:

  • Psychology
    • Congruent connection between your values and your communications
    • Taking the time and energy to identify and recognise the values of others
    • Willingness to (consistently) have open, honest conversations
    • Strong (genuine) interest in individuals; encouraging views from all quarters
    • Actively seeking out dissent and disagreement
    • Not frightened to push back and challenge
    • A desire to learn in every interaction as an opportunity for learning something new
    • Control of the ego – not looking to be the star turn and not looking to be the all-knowing guru
    • Is patient and goes at the pace of everyone in the room
  • Communications
    • Attentive listening – continually seeking to understand rather than advise / answer
    • Open questions to deepen understanding
    • Using meta-questions rather than answering / advising / opining
    • Fully expecting that no conversation achieves the anticipated outcome
    • Consistent (no favourites), non-directional, non-judgemental
    • Emphasis on evidence-based arguments rather than reacting to expressions of opinion
  • Behaviours
    • In-communication behaviours to build rapport
    • Ongoing behaviours to build trustworthiness
    • Maintains the energy required to always-be-facilitating
    • Always linking corporate strategy to the grass roots – giving everyone context and purpose
  • Facilitation
    • Manages the process of facilitation as opposed to managing the people
    • Maintains an awareness of the dynamics of the room
    • Ensures that the facilitation process is appropriate to the needs of the business and the capability of the people in the room
    • Is mindful of the needs of the room
    • Work on a principle of 100 / 100 – building an environment for 100% attention in the room and 100% contribution
    • Builds and positions everyone to act on new learning

Time To Act

To facilitate means to “make it easier” and a leader is a person who can get others to achieve assigned tasks. The facilitative leader is a “person with authority or influence who enables and encourages others act”.

If you are considering ways to invigorate your organisation, it may be time to look at the characteristics of the facilitative leader.

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Facilitative Leader Characteristics