Women and Facilitative LeadershipDecember 11, 2009 18 Comments
Yesterday, I was honored to lead a workshop on Facilitative Leadership for 500 women at the 5th Annual Massachusetts Conference for Women. Hosted by the MA Commission on the Status of Women, this mega-gathering attracted over 5,000 diverse women from corporate, government, non-profit, and social change sectors. The vibe was electric and eclectic – with a mix of executives, teachers, job-seekers, entrepreneurs, students, philanthropists, stay-at-home moms and many others. It was a day of focus on issues “that matter most to women, including personal finance, business, entrepreneurship, health and work/life balance”.
My 60 minute session, “The Practice of Facilitative Leadership”, was what we at IISC would call an “experience” of our flagship, 3-day, course. Up front, we acknowledged that, in this shifting socio-historical global context — anyone who claims to lead is merely improvising her way through unprecedented waters along with the rest of us.
Next, we cracked open a definition of Facilitative Leadership (Facilitative Leaders “create conditions for self-empowerment so that people can work together to achieve a common goal”) and looked at the Profile of a Facilitative Leader (see Curtis’ post of yesterday for more on the Profile, and its lovely focus on Love).
We introduced two of FL’s practical frameworks: 1) a strategy for leading discussions, Open, Narrow, Close:
and 2) a framework for measuring success, Focus on Results Process and Relationship:
The participants were highly engaged and asked great questions. Several women expressed resonance with the concepts, citing relevance to work in corporations, churches, community building and consulting practices. I took care to point out in this women’s gathering that Facilitative Leadership, with its emphasis on service (and love, even!), is in no ways a wimpy, impotent, approach to leadership. Rather, shifts from more hierarchical, command and control leadership forms to more collaborative, decentralized approaches means that women — with our facilitative proclivities — are being called upon by the zeitgeist. Simply put: the time has come, and women need to lead.
I sensed something sparkling in the air at MACFW. Keynote speaker Suze Orman surely lit up the atmosphere with jarring statistical data on disparities between men and women workers. She challenged us to take more ownership of our earning, spending and investing habits. The intergenerational nature of the crowd was also a highlight.
While many of our trainings have more women than men, given the demographics of the social sector, the woman-centric focus of MACFW provided a unique space from which to consider Facilitative Leadership. It makes me think more about gender, power, and FL: What are its benefits and challenges, given persistent gender injustice? Given industry’s growing recognition of collaboration, emotional intelligence and relational skillfullness as desirable? Given what we know of the phenomenal women who lead us every day?