There is a paradox at the heart of facilitation as there is at the heart of all people management; and that is, that to get people to do great things, we, the group leaders, need to allow things to happen, not by doing a lot but by doing as little as possible.
When we get out of people’s way, they have the space to grow. When we stop thinking for them, they start to think for themselves. And when we stop telling them what our solutions are, they come up with the best solutions of all.
1, Gentle Leadership. Like it or not, the group will turn to the group leader at critical moments in the life of a group…
• to exert authority (especially if someone challenges the agreed rules)
• to be a model of legitimate and compassionate authority
• to be the expert
• to inform
• to adjudicate
• to empower
• to reward
• to provide feedback.
The group leader does not respond to the need for leadership by wresting control back from the group, but rather uses the skills of gentle leadership to help them lead themselves.
“The true leader is always led.” (Carl Jung)
2. Gentle Interventions. Gentle leadership comes from gentle interventions: a gentle frown; a gentle look; a gentle smile; a gentle touch; a gentle nudge; a gentle few words; gentle persuasion.
Other techniques of gentle persuasion are:
• suggesting options but without forcing the group to choose
• posing questions to make people think
• pointing out possible consequences
• making a point indirectly through stories, anecdotes, myth and legends, the way gentle leaders throughout history have always conveyed their message.
“Gentle interventions, if they are clear, overcome rigid resistance. If gentleness fails, try yielding or stepping back altogether. When the leader yields, resistance fails.” (John Heider)
3. 3D Leaders. The 3-D leader is the leader who can lead a group from any of the following three positions:
• out in front of the group
• in amongst the group
• at the back of the group.
The 3-D leader is like the mountain guide who knows when to tell the group to “Follow me!”, when to mix in amongst them to gain their confidence; and when to let everyone climb a cliff first so that he can check their progress and safety from below.
The distinctive mark of the 3-D leader is care; and from caring comes the courage to try bold things.
4. Charisma. Charisma is a quality that belongs to the art of gentle leadership. It enables you to influence others simply by your presence and attentiveness.
One of the most charismatic people ever to have lived was President John F. Kennedy. It was said that when you spoke to Kennedy, you were made to feel that nothing else in the world mattered to him at that moment than you, your thoughts and feelings. That’s the effect of charisma.