by Elisabeth White, Chief Experience Officer | 2 Minute Read

Meetings and events play a crucial role in the workplace, acting as the breeding ground for ideas, decisions, and collaboration. However, not all meetings or events are created equal. Two distinct approaches emerge when it comes to orchestrating these gatherings: leading and facilitating. Understanding the difference between these two roles can unlock the true potential of your team, transforming mundane meetings into productive, interactive, and engaging sessions. In this blog, we are going to explore the contrasting styles of leading and facilitating, delving into the traits of the best facilitators and how they elicit maximum value from their attendees.


Leading a meeting or event often involves a more authoritative role, where a designated leader drives the agenda and discussion. The leader typically controls the flow of information and decisions, and participants follow the leader's directives. While leadership is essential for certain contexts, it may not be the most conducive style for every meeting scenario.


Facilitating a meeting or event, on the other hand, takes a collaborative approach. The facilitator's primary role is to guide the discussion, create a safe space for open dialogue, and ensure that all voices are heard. Unlike a traditional leader, a facilitator acts as a neutral third-party, encouraging participation, managing conflicts, and drawing out collective intelligence from the group.

Traits of the Best Facilitators:

  • Active Listening: Exceptional facilitators are skilled listeners. They are attuned to participants' emotions, perspectives, and unspoken cues, enabling them to create a safe and inclusive environment.
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Adept facilitators exhibit empathy, recognizing and validating the feelings of meeting attendees. They respond with emotional intelligence, navigating conflicts and promoting harmony.
  • Inclusive Communication: The best facilitators foster a culture of inclusivity, encouraging everyone to contribute their insights and ideas without fear of judgment.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Facilitating meetings demands adaptability. Great facilitators adjust their approach based on the group's dynamics, ensuring that the session remains focused and productive.
  • Neutral Stance: As impartial moderators, facilitators maintain a neutral stance, avoiding bias and guiding discussions without influencing outcomes.
  • Time Management: Facilitators excel at time management, allocating sufficient time for each agenda item while preventing tangents that derail the meeting's purpose.

Getting the Most Out of Attendees:

  • Create a Purpose-Driven Agenda: Clearly define the meeting's purpose and goals to set the tone for focused and outcome-oriented discussions.
  • Encourage Active Participation: Engage attendees by using icebreakers, open-ended questions, and interactive activities that promote engagement and creative thinking.
  • Foster Psychological Safety: Establish a supportive atmosphere where attendees feel safe sharing ideas, even if they challenge the status quo.
  • Use Visual Aids: Incorporate visual aids and technology to enhance understanding and encourage active participation.
  • Summarize Key Points: Skillful facilitators summarize key discussions, decisions, and action items to reinforce clarity and accountability.

In the realm of meetings, leading and facilitating are distinct approaches, each with its merits. Facilitation offers a collaborative and empowering framework, where every participant's contribution is valued and considered. By leveraging the traits of skilled facilitators and promoting active engagement, your meetings can evolve into transformational spaces, driving innovation, and fostering a culture of teamwork and inclusivity.

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