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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

What leadership qualities matter most for making collaborative decisions?

Updated: May 2

When making group decisions -- what qualities of leadership matter most?

First, let’s examine the question “What is leadership?” Is it about power, charisma, or personal vision? Does the leader have followers, influence, or the right answers? Are leaders those who implement values, like fairness or sanctity, that resonate with those they lead? Must the leader have structural power, or can they lead from within or even from outside the group?

After pondering this for quite some time, I found a helpful definition of leadership in the book Reweaving our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future.*

The author, Miki Kashtan, defines leadership as: “...the intentional influence in support of the whole or in support of a common goal.” It is “taking responsibility, in a most personal way, for the well-being and goals of the whole” (p. 177). Elsewhere, she describes it as “stewardship of the whole” (p.183).

Miki's definition suggests that we who lead groups in making decisions would do well to embrace being “stewards of the whole.” We would take personal responsibility for attending to not only the well-being of everyone in our meetings (including ourselves) but even to those who might be affected by the outcome of the meetings. We would help groups find ways to make decisions that everyone can support.

This is a tall order. Is it really possible to find solutions that work for everyone? How do I stay calm in the storm? What skills are needed? How do I doggedly hold the faith that a solution is possible? How do I invite opposing factions to risk not getting what they want?

Miki’s book had more answers for me. She asserts that the risk is “not about giving up on what we want; it’s only about the willingness to consider a different outcome. That willingness is what allows us to open up to hear others, to see their point of view, to consider other possibilities, to shift at times, and to speak about what we want without insisting on it happening.” (p. 105)

Furthermore, Miki notes, “the less willingness another person has, the more presence, skill and commitment are required from [the facilitator].” (p. 106) and, ”The underlying principle is the unwavering commitment to having everyone matter, holding everyone’s needs with care. Both the commitment and the skills are necessary to be able to maintain togetherness in the face of differences.” (p. 116)

In other words, the more presence, skill and commitment the leader has, the more likely the group can make a decision, together, that everyone can support.

Convergent Facilitation, the decision-making method that Miki developed, relies on these leadership qualities of presence, skill and commitment. A convergent facilitator cultivates willingness among participants by increasing their trust in the idea that their needs will be met. The facilitator holds the faith that a collaborative solution is possible, and skillfully and efficiently helps the group find it.

Convergent Facilitation appealed to me, so I took a class in it a few years ago. By practicing it, I do find myself gaining presence, skill and commitment as a facilitator.

You can grow as a leader/facilitator too! Here are two opportunities to develop your presence, skill and commitment:

The Convergent Facilitation Intensive will be taught online over 2 days in October. Led by two highly proficient convergent facilitators, Roni Wiener and Magda Baranska, you will learn about both the Convergent Facilitation process and practice specific facilitation skills for ensuring its success in your groups. And, you will observe two CF masters at work! (I’ll be a lowly assistant in breakout rooms.) After taking the class, you can join an ongoing CF practice group that I also attend. Register here.

Leading Faith-Filled Meetings is a workshop taught over the course of two months, both in an online self-paced learning platform and in live (on zoom) sessions on two separate weekends. In this workshop, Sandy Salvo of Centered Connections and I teach a holistic framework for viewing and improving meetings in faith communitie and growing as a facilitator. Registration is now closed for this one, but I'll be offering something like it in 2023. You can learn more here.

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* Kashtan, Miki. Reweaving our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future, Fearless Heart Publications, 2014.

Photo credit: Quino Al on Unsplash

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