6 Key Qualities of a Successful Facilitating Leader

What qualities come to mind when you think of what makes a good manager? Most people would say good people and project management skills. I would argue that being a good leader means being a good facilitator who inherently has several qualities I’ll share with you and who cultivates their skills.

Why is this important? The climate we strive for as good leaders and managers is sometimes hard to achieve. Having people be autonomous critical thinkers able to act on their own but balanced with a degree of rigor in considering and solving complex problems  – that is a key to sustaining growth, innovation, and productivity, as well as satisfaction on the part of our workforce. Giving people the authority and responsibility to do their work enables the right kind of trust to develop. And, being a facilitative leader vs. a directing one gives the whole process that gentle guidance that is neither overbearing nor out of control.

The facilitating leader is exactly that: an effective facilitator, a person who leads or coordinates the efforts of a group. The facilitating leader uses group facilitation skills to help teams and individuals solve problems.

Think of a facilitating manager as a guide who helps others move through a process together. He or she isn’t usually a technical or subject matter expert himself–which is often the mistake most hiring personnel make when evaluating the skills of a management candidate.

I see this in technology companies, where technical experts are director-level positions in charge of managing teams of other technical experts. Not a good fit for their personalities and skill sets.

A good facilitating leader instead draws out the input of others through open, well-crafted questions and is not there to offer opinions per se. He or she helps direct reports or teammates discover what they already know. He or she also offers alternative ways of interpreting their experiences. This encourages individuals to critically examine and build on or challenge their knowledge, attitudes, and assumptions.

Good facilitating leaders are:

Intuitive thinkers

Intuitive thinkers are “big picture” thinkers. Thinking intuitively involves accessing and using the full potential of “whole brain” intelligence in making evaluations or decisions. It involves making lateral links and guesses about all possibilities before rational thinking calculates something more carefully.

Warm and empathetic

Being warm and empathetic involves creating a positive and supportive climate, demonstrating compassion for others when communicating, and demonstrating an understanding of others’ viewpoints and feelings.

Collaborative communicators

Communicating collaboratively means working directly and openly with others so messages are sent and heard optimally.

Good listeners

Being a good listener means both hearing and understanding other people, paying close attention to decipher the full message, so you understand completely what the other person is saying. How many times have you heard, “that’s not what I said,” or, “that’s not what I meant?”


Being flexible means being able to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements when necessary. It also means not being rigid or fixed in how you think or act. That seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?


Being lively and passionate about what you do and what others around you do is infectious and essential in maintaining a positive and productive work environment!

Now that you know what a facilitating manager is, have you ever worked for one or worked to be a better facilitating manager yourself?

I’d like to hear your experiences with different managers and their effectiveness.

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