Group Dynamics and Leadership Group Work Thesis

Pages: 10 (3122 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Group Dynamics and Leadership

Group work is often used in business and educational settings in order to take advantage of the fact that individual excellence can be optimized by working in a team with others. It is however important to recognize that specific group dynamics could adversely affect the optimal functioning of the group. In order to avoid this, an understanding of group dynamics is vital, along with good leadership skills in order to optimize the group.

Group Dynamics

The best way to understand group dynamics is to examine groups in a variety of settings. Gerard M. Blair for example examines groups within the engineering field. Blair notes that internal conflict is often the main problem in groups that do not function effectively. In order to identify the causes of these, Blair examines the exact points of focus in group work. He identifies task and process in this regard.

Task refers to the problems involved in doing the work, while process refers to the mechanisms of group interaction. The latter has the potential to either optimize or minimize the effectiveness of the group in performing the task involved. Blair emphasizes that group management is often ignored, as it is assumed that groups will work together optimally. However, conflict needs to be managed effectively in order for groups to work together optimally. Blair notes that the neglect of such management often results in group work being much less effective than projected and than it should be.

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For a group to function effectively, there needs to be cooperation, coordination, procedures and mores, all of which are commonly understood by each member of the group. This results in both practical and moral support among group members, and a concomitant optimization of work done by the group.

Thesis on Group Dynamics and Leadership Group Work Is Assignment

The attraction of group work within the corporation is the fact of combining talents and innovative solutions to problems that individuals can simply not solve. Interaction among people with a variety of skills and knowledge can then provide the solutions necessary to solve difficult problems. In this way, group work presents several advantages over work by an individual. Although some group decisions can also be made by individuals, Blair notes that the advantage of group work lies in the fact that groups motivate individuals to perform at their best, while some group members may understand a problem better than others. Hence the collective understanding within the group leads to a much better and more effective decision.

Another advantage of group work is training. Group members can help their fellow participants to understand the work and decision process better, and hence group support optimizes the practical learning process within the company. In this way, potentially expensive training for individuals is eliminated by implementing group work.

Problem solving is also enhanced by group work. Problems that prove impossible or difficult for individuals can be facilitated by the combined talents and thinking of the group dynamic. By working together, it is often easier to find the solution to complicated problems, because each individuals brings his or her thinking to the problem and the process of its solution. In this way, group participation provides the individual with the opportunity to perform beyond his or her own potential.

The overall outcome of this, according to the author, is that the individual's self-perception, self-esteem and motivation are enhanced, while stress is minimized by sharing the workload and possible individual problems with others. By working in a group, the individual's talents are optimized, and concomitantly, the company as a whole benefits, while the individual benefits from the interpersonal interaction and support of group work.

Blair also identifies specific dynamics of group formation that should be recognized when leadership is implemented to minimize group conflict and optimize the performance of individuals within the group. The four stages of group development including forming, storming, norming, and performing.

Forming refers to the first stage, where the group members first come together into the group setup. There is little overt conflict, and individuals tend to be polite, guarded and reserved regarding their own opinions. There is a tendency to defer to the more outgoing individuals asserting themselves as leaders. Some group members on the other hand may be particularly nervous or subordinate, and may never recover even with time.

Storming is the second stage of group formation, when conflicts emerge. Having relaxed reservations, group members begin to experience conflict, with little communication occurring. For some groups conflict may be open, while it is more subtle for others, depending upon the personalities represented. This stage is extremely ineffective for group work.

The third stage is norming, during which the sub-groups formed during the second stage begin to understand that working together will optimize the performance of all individuals. The internal conflict begins to subside and there is a spirit of cooperation. There is security in expressing each viewpoint and opinion, and group members display a greater willingness to listen and communicate. Work methods are also established at this stage, which are recognized by the group as a whole.

Rick Curtis (1995) suggests that there are three possible ways of establishing norms within a group setup. These include stating, modeling and importing. Stating refers to the action of explaining to the group members how to behave or perform in a direct manner. Modeling refers to demonstrating how to behave, which is also known as "leading by example." Importing is the third way that Curtis suggests, and refers to importing group behavior from other social situations. The author emphasizes that the methods are seldom used in isolation, and interact according to the specific needs or dynamics of the group.

Norming then sets the stage for performing, which means that the group has settled into a work dynamic based upon a system of free exchange and support. This stage means that the group performs optimally and are able to support each other in terms of ideas and workload. At this stage, the group begins to truly function as a group rather than individuals or sub-groups, each with its own ideas regarding the task to be performed.

Rick Curtis (1995) identifies several dynamics that are important in forming an effective group. Such a group for example has a clear understanding of all its goals in both the short- and long-term. It displays flexibility in terms of the goals to be met. There is a high degree of communication and understanding among group members, with potential conflicts handled via communication rather than fighting. Personal and work-related opinions and feelings are communicated in an open and frank manner. In decision-making, there is a commitment to the optimal outcome of major decisions, and there is also a commitment to sharing leadership responsibilities. In these decisions and sharing paradigms, optimal use is made of the varying abilities represented by group members. The group is objective and maintains a balance between emotional and rational paradigms, using all dynamics to contribute to the effectiveness of the collective group.

Informal Groups and Leadership

According to the Accel Team (2008), groups within organizations can take either a formal or informal shape. The informal group holds several advantages. In informal groups, the authors note that rotational leadership could lead to several advantages. Rotational leadership means that leaders change according to the changing needs of the group. Leaders are therefore chosen on the basis of a group's perceptions of its specific needs at a specific time. This differs from formal groups, in that a leader who is formally appointed can formally influence others from his or her pre-defined position.

For an informal leader, this is not the case. Informal leaders do not have formal influence, but rather exists to fulfill the needs and expectations of the group. If these needs are not met, the leader is changed. Leaders are chosen and discarded on a fairly quick and sometimes emotional basis. The power of leadership in informal groups therefore lies in the specific characteristics of its leader as these relate to the perceived needs of the group. The authors suggest that informal groups can be influenced or optimized by changing either the characteristics of their leaders or by changing the leaders themselves.

On the basis of rotational leadership, managers could for example also rotate an informal group's leaders and key members on a regular basis. The manager should however take into account the strength of group norms, which are often formalized and persist long after the departure of a specific leader. It is therefore not always easy to influence a group simply by changing its leaders or key members.

A better approach, as suggested by the authors, could be to choose leaders on the basis of the supervisor's objectives. Leaders who are sympathetic to these can then be used to influence the group accordingly. Care should be exercised however in the group's perception of the leader's association with top management. If group members collectively resent the perceived excessive power of the leader, it is likely that the potential of such a group will not… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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