Facilitative vs. Directive Leadership: What You Need to Know

Facilitative and directive leadership are two common styles in business and government, but what’s really the difference, and which will best serve you in your work?

Let’s start by looking at each in turn.

What is Facilitative Leadership?

Facilitative leadership is a strategy that promotes involving people in all levels of decision-making to enhance their feeling of responsibility and collaboration. A leader becomes a thinking partner and manager who minimizes conflict and facilitates the participation of every person regardless of their experience, learning style, or position.

Pros and Cons of Facilitative Leadership

Facilitative leadership is a very people-oriented style that has many advantages for people working in managerial positions within government organizations.

The biggest advantages are:

  • Promotes collaboration. A facilitative leader involves every employee to provide opinions and ideas.
  • Increases motivation. Being involved in all decision-making processes enhances the sense of responsibility and increases motivation.
  • Provides a positive work environment. High employee involvement and freedom to contribute lead to a more positive outlook in employees.
  • Increases productivity. Emma Seppälä, a researcher from Yale, compiled research findings that suggest that positive work cultures are more productive.
  • Encourages learning. Facilitative leaders focus on ensuring that their followers get the knowledge they require to complete projects by themselves.

But the facilitative leadership style also has some disadvantages.

The three major principles of this style — using a group’s collective expertise, solving problems as a team, and focusing on positive things — introduce these challenges:

  • Increased risk of complacency. Leaders who focus on positive things might avoid addressing mistakes and shortcomings, which leads to a lack of constructive criticism and potential complacency in the workplace.
  • Confusion in decision-making processes. Situations with multiple decision-makers involved might result in some confusion over whose responsibility is to make the final decision.
  • Less effective conflict resolution. Facilitative leaders tend to focus more on avoiding conflicts rather than resolving them, which might make collaboration more difficult over time.

What is Directive Leadership?

Directive leadership is a commanding and coercive style where leaders are responsible for setting goals and making all important decisions. They tell their subordinates what to do and provide instructions on how to do it.

Pros and Cons of Directive Leadership

Directive leadership style is common in government agencies and is often used by people who have effective skills in influencing and leading others.

The biggest advantages of directive leadership are:

  • Effective reform implementation. Directive leaders set goals and provide specific plans to achieve them, which works well for introducing and sustaining reforms and changes.
  • Quick decision-making. The top-down leadership structure ensures faster decision-making compared to facilitative leadership, which needs time for discussion.
  • Sustained employee performance. Leadership research suggests that directive behaviors remain essential for driving the performance of both individual subordinates and entire groups.
  • Clear employee roles. Directive leaders provide clarity for each worker’s role in a project, which might help improve performance and reduce stress.
  • Better discipline. Following regulations, instructions, and recommendations is one of the primary goals for directive leaders, which improves discipline within groups.

But here are some of the disadvantages:

  • Lack of freedom of thought. Directive-style leaders often prefer to make decisions by themselves, without an appreciable contribution from subordinates.
  • Little encouragement of proactive behaviors. Directive leaders value control and established hierarchy. Thus, there isn’t much space for employees to make decisions, initiate changes, and take charge.
  • More responsibility for leaders. Directive leaders take full responsibility for the performance of their subordinates and projects. If a person undertakes too much and concentrates on micromanagement, it leads to a higher stress level and burning out. Hence, leaders should be careful and still delegate some responsibility. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves managing small processes instead of improving the whole company’s performance.

Facilitative vs Directive Leadership Styles: How to Find Yours?

So, how to find which leadership style is more effective for you as a government employee?

On the one hand, facilitative leadership provides a positive work culture and encourages contributions from others. That is important for worker retention, engagement, and projects involving a great deal of creativity.

On the other hand, directive leadership might be more effective for building and sustaining the momentum of reforms and making quick decisions.

Both sets of advantages are something that government officials can take advantage of. That’s why a leader should try to have a combination of the best features from both styles to be able to apply them in appropriate situations.

For example, it’s easy to be facilitative when a project requires creativity, collaboration, and experimentation. But being a more directive type of leader should be more beneficial in situations when time is pressured, resources are limited, and control is essential.

In the case when a government agency deals with a complicated project, significant changes, or takes on a major reform, a leader needs to set the direction and gain the momentum for change. Here, the qualities of the directive style such as quick decision-making, clear employee roles, and change implementation would be useful. That’s why directive style might be more suitable for people working in state and national level leadership positions.

But if you need to advance a program, initiative, or project at a community level, it’s likely that qualities of facilitative style will be more effective to motivate subordinates to inspire and lead change. This means this style might be more suitable for local political leadership.

For example, mayors who apply the facilitative style to promote the contribution of councils see their effectiveness increase as opposed to mayors who prefer a more directive style.

Facilitative vs Directive Leadership Styles: Summary

Both facilitative and directive styles have highly useful features for political leadership.

But the local political leadership might benefit from the collaborative and positive nature of a facilitative style where a group of people like a council needs to be engaged. Situations, where coordination, control, and accountability are critical, require a more directive leadership style.

Nicole Garrison is a digital marketing expert, copywriter, and editor. She also provides paper writing service reviews. Nicole spends her free time honing her skills as a writer and digital publisher to further her career portfolio with new writing formats. Her hobbies include working out, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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