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close this bookCommunity Participation in Problem-solving: Leadership (Habitat)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGuidelines for the trainer
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentA statement of principles
View the documentI. Styles of leadership
View the documentII. The power of leaders
View the documentIII. The maturity of groups
View the documentIV. Leading a problem-solving group
View the documentV. Using participatory problem-solving techniques
View the documentBibliography

I. Styles of leadership

Leadership is a complicated concept. Not all leaders behave in the same way. The same leader does not behave the same way on all occasions. Nevertheless, for us to explore the nature and consequences of various kinds of leadership, we need to be able to work with some kind of categorization. The following exercise will help us to identify some key differences in approach and to establish three main styles. It will also, perhaps, give you an insight into how you, yourself, think and function as a leader.

TASK 1 Discovering your leadership style

Imagine that you are involved in each of the following six situations as a project team leader. Read each scenario carefully and think about what you would do on each occasion. Then, circle the letter of your choice.

1. You notice that your team seems to be working less and less conscientiously. There are signs that they are nursing some grievance, but you have no idea what it is.

(a) You call a team meeting and make it quite clear that all the members have to work as hard as they can, in order to complete the project successfully.

(b) In private, you ask each member for an explanation.

(c) You invite the team members as a group, without yourself being present, to discuss their problems and then take up the issues with you.

2. The residents' committee is constantly arguing about the project's proposals for improving traffic security in the sites-and-services scheme. Time is passing and nothing has been decided, let alone completed.

(a) You draw up a plan yourself and, then, put it to the committee for approval.

(b) You ask the residents' committee to come up with their own proposals as soon as possible.

(c) You announce that the original project proposals will be implemented with immediate effect.

3. You are considering a change in the organization of the project, which would result in the redefinition of tasks.

(a) You put your own ideas on paper and ask for the team's comments.

(b) From your own experience of the way the team members operate, you make up your own mind about the best allocation of tasks and then announce the changes and implement them.

(c) You allow the team members themselves to be involved in deciding the changes, without pushing your own ideas.

4. The residents' committee has promised to organize community work-groups to dig trenches for the water-supply system. On the day work at the trenches has to start, nobody turns up at the site. After waiting an hour, you decide to:

(a) Call a meeting of the residents' committee and request it to work out detailed plans for the community work on the trenches.

(b) Go to the house of the chairman of the residents' committee to express your concern and ask him what has happened.

(c) Call a meeting of the residents' committee and tell it to organize things next time.

5. You have been appointed to replace a project leader who, it seems, was not able to ensure co-ordination of team members' efforts. Although the staff members seem to get along well with one another, they are inclined to "do their own thing,'. Also, your predecessor seems not to have been an efficient administrator - you can find no records of staff meetings which would help you to assess the situation in the project.

(a) You ask all members to submit written proposals for possible reorganization of the project. These proposals will form the basis for a whole-group discussion.

(b) After discussions with individual members and observation of the work pattern, you put your own proposals to the members for comment.

(c) You call a meeting at which you distribute tasks and introduce a new working schedule.

6. The Ministry of Public Works has promised to provide you with lorries for transporting building materials and personal belongings of households to be relocated. However, the lorries are not there at the time they are needed

(a) You write a letter to the head of the relevant department, reminding him of his promise.

(b) You telephone the head of department, tell him about the urgency of the matter and tell him to send the lorries immediately.

(c) You visit the head of the department in his office to find out if there is any particular reason why the lorries have not been allocated.

Review On the next page you will find a score sheet. In each column, circle the letter representing the response you have preferred.



Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

























Score: (Number of circles in each column)

If you have scored three or more in any of the columns, you may count this as your dominant style. If you are working in a group, it would be interesting to form clusters of those who have shown a preference for a particular style. The members of each cluster can then discuss what they have in common that led them to make their choices and why they did so in each case. Then, each cluster could explain its view to the whole group. Out of such a discussion could come a recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of each style - and an assessment of the situations in which one particular style might be appropriate.

Let us look at the characteristics of the three styles represented by the three columns. We can give them the names:



The Directing style, as represented in the column one responses, may be diagrammed as in the following interactive pattern:

Here, the leader makes his own assessment of the problem situation (1). He decides what action he will take (2). He, then, communicates his decision to the members and implements it (3). He is the only actor in the problem-solving activity.


The Consulting style, using the interaction between the same three elements. would be:

Both the leader (1) and the members (23) have an opportunity consider solutions to the problem.

However, the leader sometimes takes the initiative in posing ideas for the members to comment on (3). His Is still a relatively "strong" role in the decision-making process.


The third, Facilitating style may be seen as:

The role of the leader is very different in this kind of interaction. He is more concerned with the process of problem- solving than with making his own input to the solution. He helps by structuring situations (1) for the group members themselves to explore in making their own decisions (2). The dotted line represents the interesting choice such a leader has - does he join in the debate, on equal terms with the members, or does he withdraw from the actual discussion of issues and making of action plans?

Models of project development

You will see that these models of problem-solving mirror the general differences between approaches to project implementation.

There is the TRANSMITTAL model:

Using this approach, the planners make their plans, the local authorities approve them, and the community workers inform the residents about the plans and how they will be implemented. No options are offered, and little or no scope is given for any modification of the plan. There is no line drawn between "Residents" and "Project" - indicating that the members of the affected community are not involved at all in the decisions at any stage of the process.

Secondly, there is the CONSULTING model:

Operating with this model, the residents do participate in the decision-making process, but their level of participation will vary. Sometimes, the planning authorities prepare plans in consultation with the residents, and decisions are made when there is a consensus. Sometimes, plans are submitted to the residents for comment, and the planning authority makes its decision in the light of - but not necessarily according to - the wishes of the community.

Thirdly, there is the PARTICIPATORY model:

Operating according to this pattern, the residents are highly involved in the processes of planning and implementing projects. They are engaged in reaching decisions through discussions amongst themselves and with the professionals. This is the most "genuine" community-participation model of project development. Such a degree of community action ensures that problem-solving and decision- making remain as much as possible at the settlement level.

Which style?

The most appropriate leadership style, therefore, for project staff members working in truly participatory schemes is the facilitating style. Their main function is to encourage the residents themselves to review their problems, set their development goals and engage directly in actions towards those goals. However, the style will vary according to the context. As we have seen illustrated in the six scenarios, the contexts varied. Some were concerned with the relationship between project staff members and settlement leaders. Others were concerned with relationships within a staff group. One focused on the relationship between project staff and a Ministry.

It might, for instance, be more appropriate, in certain circumstances, for a team leader to take a directing style within his staff group, less appropriate when dealing with a residents' committee and impossible when dealing with a senior officer in a Ministry.

Project staff and local leaders

However, this manual will be mainly concerned with the relationship between project staff members and the community or local leaders and the community. There is, though, an Important distinction to be made between the project members and the local leaders. Whereas the staff members might see that their role vis-à-vis the community can only be a "facilitating" one, for the local leader the situation can be complex. He is often, as a resident in the community, directly affected by the decisions that are being made - therefore, he will want to be directly engaged in the debate of issues and the formulation of plans. He might well be an authority figure - a councillor or Party office-bearer - so he might find it difficult to behave in a non-authoritarian manner. Also, he is unlikely to have had the same kind of training as the community worker and he might, therefore, be unfamiliar with and unable to utilize the sophisticated communication methods that make up a facilitating style.

This is a maker we should examine before going on to discuss the use of problem-solving processes in group settings, because the status and disposition of the group leader will significantly influence his use of the facilitating methods for problem-solving presented in the previous manual. In the next chapter we shall look at leadership in relation to the kinds of "power" that make one a leader.