ERIC Identifier: ED381851
Publication Date: 1995-04-00
Author: Lashway, Larry
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Facilitative Leadership. ERIC Digest, Number 96.
When the concept of instructional leadership first emerged in the late 1970s,
principals were perceived as effective if they took charge of a school by
setting clear expectations, maintaining firm discipline, and implementing high
standards. This view of leadership was implicitly hierarchical, dependent on
administrators firmly exercising their authority to direct subordinates.
Because schools are not easily changed by simple prescriptions, researchers
began searching for more sophisticated conceptions of leadership. Influenced by
developments in the private sector, they have increasingly focused their
attention on "transformational" or "facilitative" models of leadership that
emphasize collaboration and empowerment.
WHAT IS FACILITATIVE LEADERSHIP?
Initially, the term
TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP was viewed as a PERSONAL QUALITY, an ability to
inspire employees to look beyond self-interest and focus on organizational
goals. The concept has evolved over time; now it is often viewed as a broad
STRATEGY that has been described as "facilitative."
David Conley and Paul Goldman (1994) define facilitative leadership as "the
behaviors that enhance the collective ability of a school to adapt, solve
problems, and improve performance." The key word here is COLLECTIVE; the
facilitative leader's role is to foster the involvement of employees at all
Several key strategies are used by facilitative leaders: overcoming resource
constraints; building teams; providing feedback, coordination, and conflict
management; creating communication networks; practicing collaborative politics;
and modeling the school's vision (Conley and Goldman).
HOW DO FACILITATIVE LEADERS USE POWER?
has been viewed as domination through formal authority, flowing from the top
down and vesting decisions in a small number of people. Facilitative power, in
contrast, is based on mutuality and synergy, and it flows in multiple
directions. The hierarchy remains intact, but leaders use their authority to
support professional give-and-take (Diane Dunlap and Paul Goldman 1990).
Schools may be especially appropriate arenas for this type of power because
teaching requires autonomy and discretion, not standardized formulas. Teachers
can't succeed just by imposing mandates on students; rather, they have to work
indirectly, creating conditions under which students will learn. Principals
control learning even less directly; they have to create environments in which
teachers can work effectively. In short, facilitative power is power through,
not power over (Dunlap and Goldman).
Despite the emphasis on mutuality, facilitative power does not rely on voting
or other formal mechanisms. Dunlap and Goldman emphasize that facilitation
occurs within the existing structure, meaning that whoever normally has legal
authority to ratify decisions continues to do so. Unlike delegation, where
administrators unilaterally assign tasks to subordinates, in a facilitative
environment, anyone can initiate a task and recruit anyone else to participate.
The process thrives on informal negotiation and communication.
WHAT DOES FACILITATIVE LEADERSHIP REQUIRE OF
Facilitative environments are rich, complex, and
unpredictable, demanding leadership skills that go beyond the merely technical.
The act of leading through others is not easily reduced to simple formulas.
Clearly, facilitative leaders behave differently than traditional leaders.
They spend much of their time negotiating decisions they could unilaterally
make; they encourage competitive views from subordinates; they make decisions on
the fly, in corridors and classrooms.
But successful facilitation may depend less on any particular set of
behaviors than on the underlying belief system. Conley and Goldman emphasize the
importance of trust, "a letting go of control and an increasing belief that
others can and will function independently and successfully within a common
framework of expectations and accountability."
Achieving this trust is not a trivial task; Conley and Goldman warn that
administrators may lapse into "pseudo-facilitative leadership," using the
language of facilitation while covertly trying to lead employees to a
preordained conclusion. Similarly, Andrew Hargreaves (1991) warns of "contrived
collegiality," in which administrators attempt to mandate collaboration using
Facilitative leadership may also require richer perceptions of organizational
life. Lee Bolman and Terry Deal (1991) identify four "frames" for thinking about
leadership. The RATIONAL frame focuses on the formal demands of the system, such
as goals, policies, and constraints. The HUMAN RESOURCE frame considers the
human need of participants. The SYMBOLIC frame addresses the values, rites, and
rituals that provide members with a sense of community. The POLITICAL frame
considers the way that participants pursue their own interests.
Bolman and Deal note that few leaders use more than two of these frames; yet
in a facilitative environment, all are important. For example, a principal who
is facilitating greater faculty involvement in teacher evaluation is more likely
to succeed if he or she can recognize the anxiety that evaluation causes (human
resource frame); anticipate teacher concerns about judging peers (political
frame); create support by casting the issue in terms of shared expertise
(symbolic frame); and judge whether the new procedures are fulfilling their
intended purpose (rational frame).
WHAT TENSIONS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH FACILITATIVE
The radically different assumptions of facilitative leadership
are likely to create ambiguity and discomfort. Conley and Goldman characterize
facilitation as "the management of tensions."
Without question, the most serious issue is the blurring of accountability.
Facilitative leadership creates a landscape of constantly shifting
responsibilities and relationships, yet the formal system continues to turn to
one person for results. Principals may wonder about the wisdom of entrusting so
much to those who will not share the accountability; teachers may be nervous
about being enveloped in schoolwide controversies from which they are normally
buffered (Conley and Goldman; Mark Smylie and Jean Brownlee-Conyers 1992).
Administrators also face a juggling act in accommodating the unpredictable
pace of facilitation with the inflexible demands of the hierarchical system.
While trying to create schoolwide involvement, the principal is continually
being pressured to ACT on a host of issues. For example, a proposal to replace
basal readers with a whole-language approach is likely to generate a
wide-ranging debate that deserves a full airing, yet looming over the process is
an arbitrary requisition deadline. In some instances, the principal must allow
the issues to play themselves out; in other cases, he or she needs to say, "It's
time to move on."
The new approach may create great excitement and high expectations,
unleashing multiple initiatives that stretch resources, drain energy, and
fragment the collective vision. Somehow the principal must keep a hand on the
reins without discouraging the innovators. At the same time, the risky business
of change will intensify teachers' traditional demands for emotional support and
protection from bureaucratic demands. The facilitative leader must know when to
provide this support and when to challenge the comfortable status quo (Conley
HOW CAN ADMINISTRATORS BECOME FACILITATIVE LEADERS?
and Goldman urge would-be facilitative leaders to move slowly, assessing their
own leadership styles and the school's culture before diving in. Not every
school is ready to embrace collaborative leadership, and every organization goes
through periods when highly directive leadership is more appropriate.
Principals should clearly communicate their intentions and carefully choose
the target for their initial efforts; ideally, the issue should be one that is
important to teachers, yet safe enough that the principal can live with any
outcome. Emerging facilitative leaders should also seek out like-minded
colleagues to form a support network.
Shirley Hord (1992) counsels patience, noting that "change is a process, not
an event." She points out that individuals must change before the institution
can, and that they do so in different ways and at different rates. Facilitators
must adapt their strategies to these individual variations.
Above all, Conley and Goldman caution administrators against becoming
preoccupied with formal roles, structures, and procedures. Workplace democracy
is not an end in itself but merely a way of enhancing teacher performance and
Bolman, Lee, and Terry Deal. REFRAMING
ORGANIZATIONS: ARTISTRY, CHOICE, AND LEADERSHIP. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
Conley, David T., and Paul Goldman. FACILITATIVE LEADERSHIP: HOW PRINCIPALS
LEAD WITHOUT DOMINATING. Eugene, Oregon: Oregon School Study Council, August
Dunlap, Diane, and Paul Goldman. "Power as a 'System of Authority' vs. Power
as a 'System of Facilitation'." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
American Educational Research Association, Boston, Massachusetts, April 16-20,
1990. 25 pages. ED 325 943.
Hargreaves, Andrew. "Contrived Collegiality: The Micropolitics of Teacher
Collaboration." In THE POLITICS OF LIFE IN SCHOOLS: POWER, CONFLICT, AND
COOPERATION, edited by Joseph Blase. 46-72. Newbury Park, California: Sage
Hord, Shirley M. FACILITATIVE LEADERSHIP: THE IMPERATIVE FOR CHANGE. Austin,
Texas: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 1992. ED 370 217.
Smylie, Mark A., and Jean Brownlee-Conyers. "Teacher Leaders and Their
Principals: Exploring the Development of New Working Relationships." EDUCATIONAL
ADMINISTRATION QUARTERLY 28, 2 (May 1992): 150-84. EJ 442 832.