Term Paper: Group Leadership Skills

Pages: 10 (2827 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper


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Since group leadership is a relatively new concept, most old studies on the subject of leadership focus on the personality traits of the leader. However in recent times, the blame for failure of leadership has been shifted from the leader to the group, as it is believed that to connect success or failure of leadership to the leader's personality characteristics is an inaccurate way of assessing leadership effectiveness. Each member of the group influences the effectiveness of leadership skills as Moore (1976) maintains: "Leaders cannot lead without followers. In any group task situation, followers are vital" (p. 203). Prawl, Medlin, and Gross (1984) further add that,.".. At least four elements are required for leadership to exist: (1) a group of people, (2) a leader or leaders, (3) a problem and (4) a possible solution to the problem" (p. 84). Group and leader are two separate entities with distinct roles yet together they determine the success or failure of leadership strategies and skills as Rost (1991) explains: "They do not do the same things in the relationship, just as the composers and musicians do not do the same thing in making music, but they are both essential to leadership" (p. 109).

Group leadership cannot work if the group is composed of people with severe and intense differences. In other words, while it is important to understand that a group would contain people from diverse backgrounds and differing beliefs yet there should exist potential for cooperation and some shared vision or else the leadership fails to prove effective. Beal et al. (1962) write, "When people get together to form a group to achieve a certain goal or set of goals, it is assumed that they expect to get the active participation of those involved" (p. 75). However this cooperation may not be forthcoming if each member is hostile or possesses conflicting vision for the organization. In such situations leadership skills usually don't work for very long. The best way to avoid extreme conflict is to understand the dynamics of a group by asking a few questions that Hackman (1990) suggests:

Is the group well staffed? Is it the right size, given the work to be done? Do members have the expertise required to perform the task well? Do they have sufficient interpersonal skill to function well in a team? Is the mix of members appropriate? Are there signs that members are so similar that there is little for them to learn from one another? Or are there signs that they are so heterogeneous that they risk having difficulty communicating and coordinating with one another? (p. 10)

Apart from this, it must also be understood that group leadership works best when the leader recognizes the worth and value of each contributor. In other words, it is important to respect each individual in the team and treat him as a human being with individual needs. Lassey and Sashkin (1983) in the book, "Leadership and Social Change" explain, "Individuals seem to perform most productively and contentedly when they are treated as integrated human beings, as individuals who want to accomplish specific goals while maintaining social and psychological balance in the process" (p. 1). Similarly Kouzes and Posner (1987) opined that, "In getting extraordinary things done in organizations, everyone is important, not just the leader" (p. 133).

Group leadership is therefore a relatively new but highly significant concept since all leadership is bound to be group leadership in some way. With the emergence of new and diverse workforce, group leadership has taken on new meaning and significance. Individual leadership is no longer a required commodity; instead it's the ability of an individual to manage an entire group that makes all the difference. Group leadership is a sought after commodity since working in a group is always better than working alone as Hackman, explains:

More minds [are] applied to the work and a greater diversity of perspectives brought to bear on it, which can result in observations or insights that might escape the notice of any one individual. And, of course, group members can stimulate each other, cover for one another, and try out ideas on each other -- all activities that can boost the quality of the final product. (p. Xiv)

Bavelas (1969) concurs and highlights the importance of role differentiation in a group. For leadership to be effective, it is important for everyone to know his standing in the group. Where does he belong, what does he need to do, why is he vital to the group are some of the questions that a leader must answer so everyone knows why he is there in the first place. Bavelas observes:

By a mechanism of role differentiation, groups use the differential characteristics of members to the advantage of all by assigning group tasks to those best qualified to perform them. Leadership is an act of this process. Role differentiation is clearly more detailed than the broad concept of leadership implies and leadership is now understood to have a role structure, which varies somewhat from one situation to another. (p. 10)

Due to group leadership being a challenging job, some people are of the view that there should not exist a single leader framework. In other words, some experts believe that with a more flexible multiple leadership model, group management and leadership become easier. Bolman & Deal (1991) feel that the problem with single leadership model is that, "a single individual is often unable to provide leadership in all the situations that the group may encounter. Sometimes, groups do better with a shared and fluid approach to leadership, always asking, Who can best lead in this situation?" (Bolman & Deal, 1991, p. 150).

Some other writers believe that even if there exist a single leader, it is important to give every person proper leadership training so each member can understand the dynamics of group work. In other words, group leadership should be wisely shared as Dimock (1987) writes: "The concept of shared, situational leadership wholeheartedly supports the value of training members in group leadership skills" (p. 8). Sogunro (1997) concurs saying that, "Leadership can be made more effective if organizations are concerned with the training of all their members rather than training just the few designated leaders" (p. 734).

This paper studied the concept of group leadership and focused on the ways group leadership can become more effective. The paper also studied group dynamics and the causes of conflict in a group. We thus conclude that group leadership is a highly challenging yet very important concept that will definitely replace personal or individual leadership in the long run. It is therefore important for business or other types of organizations to develop proper training programs for their employees in group leadership since it requires special understanding of group dynamics and unique set of skills.


Adrianna Kezar, Reconstructing static images of leadership: an application of Positionality theory. Journal of Leadership Studies. Volume: 8. Issue: 3. 2002. 94+.

Bavelas, A. (1969). Leadership: Man and function. In C.A. Gibb (Ed.), Leadership. (Pp. 9-16). Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books.

Beal, G.M., Bohlen, J.M., & Raudabaugh, J.N. (1962). Leadership and dynamic group action. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.

Dimock, H.G. (1987). Factors in working with groups: Leadership and group development. (Rev. ed.). Puslinch, ON: Center for Human Resource Development.

Gibb, C.A. (Ed.) (1969). Leadership. Baltimore, MA: Penguin.

Hackman, J.R. (Ed.). (1990). Groups that work (and those that don't): Creating conditions for effective teamwork. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (1987). The leadership challenge: How to get extraordinary things done in organization. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lassey, W.R., & Sashkin M. (Eds.). (1983). Leadership and social change. (3rd ed.). San Diego, CA: University Associates.

Olusegun Agboola Sogunro: Leadership Effectiveness and Personality Characteristics of Group Members. Journal of Leadership Studies. Volume: 5. Issue: 3. 1998.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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