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French Version

Leadership style: Directing or facilitating ?

When managers complain of employees’ poor performance, they might overlook the possibility that poor performance is caused by the manager’s own style of leadership. Research shows that performance levels of a group are greatly affected by whether a manager adopts a facilitating or directing style of leadership.

The directing style is the traditional management vision used throughout most of the twentieth century, whereby managers specify goals, strategy, and tasks of the organization and its employees. They rarely allow team members to participate in goal setting, planning, or decision-making. Furthermore, directing style managers do not entrust authority onto their employees. Managers adopt a directing style of leadership due to their feeling of over responsibility which warrants a manager to interfere in the details of how employees perform their tasks, and takes control over any decision-making.

This leads to underutilization of employees and lack of commitment to organizational goals that are perceived as the manager’s and not theirs. Under these circumstances, employees work as “extra hands” for the manager, who always wonders why the “extra hands” are not doing what “the brain” (the manager) requests.

The result is poor performance, which convinces the directing style manager to become even more directing and to distrust employees; and the vicious circle continues. The changes in the business environment in the latter part of the twentieth century up to current times required a different style of leadership.

Business nowadays considers people as the most valuable asset, rather than machinery or equipment. The creativity and innovation of employees drive today’s business more than any time in the past. To address these pressing business needs, the facilitating style of leadership has emerged.

While it was known since the nineteen fifties, this style started taking center stage in the eighties and it represents almost a hundred and eighty degrees turn from the directing style. Facilitating managers share goal setting and decision making with their teams. They allow team members the room to manage their own work. Even though managers using this approach are rare in the Middle East, however they are easy to spot.

Facilitating managers are proud of their teams, and frequently show appreciation for the talents and contributions of the team. Facilitating managers believe in the employees and their ability to deliver. They insist on hiring employees based on their intellectual abilities, creativeness, drive, and competence, not based on their ability to follow orders. The facilitating managers fully utilize the brain power of the employees by refusing to use them as “extra hands”. They hold employees accountable for results and entrust employees with delegated tasks.

Accordingly, employees are empowered when they are held accountable and given both the authority and responsibility to successfully complete their work. Directing managers realize that the other style is gaining support and recognition worldwide. Nonetheless, they hesitate in changing their leadership style for mainly three reasons: The first is the worry that employees will misuse their trust; the second is the worry that employees will be spoiled by the notion that facilitating is synonymous to “too soft”; the last is the worry that empowering employees will render managers less valuable to their organizations. However, managers who successfully made the switch to a facilitating style of leadership have proven skeptics wrong.

They report that benefits of trusting employees outweigh any possible misuse of trust, which might occur occasionally. As far as the facilitating manager being too soft, employees report otherwise. Employees who work for a facilitating manager find the work tougher, but more enjoyable than their counterparts who work for the directing manager. Being a “tough” manager is about holding employees accountable more than anything else. To hold employees accountable requires giving employees the authority along with the responsibility to get their work done.

Directing style managers cannot hold employees accountable because they do not give employees the necessary authority. The facilitating managers on the other hand insist on holding employees accountable by giving them both the responsibility and the authority to do the work. Employees working with a facilitating style manager cannot use excuses; neither can they blame the manager for not giving them a chance, which is the justified claim of employees working under directing style managers.

Instead, employees usually put in their best effort to take advantage of the learning and growth opportunities provided by the facilitating manager. Research shows that the facilitating style of leadership yields higher productivity and better quality of work in today’s business world, than the directing style of leadership. This is why managers using the facilitating style are getting more recognition and appreciation by their organizations.

Amar W Mango
The Star

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