Group Dynamics and Leadership Group Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :


In considering leadership, Curtis (1995) suggests a number of optimal characteristics that are desirable in any group setup, whether formal or informal. An effective leader has certain responsibilities and concomitant traits that are important in performing his or her duties. Responsibilities for example include honesty, establishing trust, being a role model, adaptability, decision-making, motivation, and being sensitive to the needs of other group members. In leading a group, meeting these responsibilities can be summarized into two main functions that the leader has to accomplish: helping the group to work towards accomplishing the tasks and goals of the group, and the maintenance and development of relationships within the group to optimize the completion of tasks within the group.

According to the author, the leader has to display strength in certain tasks and objectives. He or she for example needs to both give and seek opinions. As a leader, giving opinions, facts, suggestions and ideas establishes the leader as qualified to lead the group. Asking for the same of group members helps the leader to apply critical thinking to the problem at hand, and to help the team accomplish their tasks in a more effective manner. The leader also needs to be a starter and direction giver, providing purpose, goals and tasks for the group to perform via initiating action. To accomplish this, the leader develops plans to proceed and helps the group to focus its attention upon what needs to be accomplished.

In accomplishing tasks, an important facet of motivation and direction is to summarize ideas, suggestions, and what has been accomplished to date so that further plans can be constructed for the future. In this way, the leader coordinates ideas and harmonizes activities to optimally accomplish the task at hand. When these tasks are successfully accomplished, the leader energizes the group towards a higher quality of work, optimizing the individual talents of the group by combining them towards a collective effort.

As reality tester and evaluator, the group leader maintains a firm concept of how group interaction affects the work dynamic and the tasks to be accomplished by the group. He or she then makes adjustments according to the findings of the evaluation and further motivates the group to higher quality action.

In terms of the group dynamic, the leader focuses not only on optimizing the group dynamic towards the task to be completed, but also focuses on interpersonal relationships and interactions in order to optimize harmony and the work dynamic of the group. As such, the leader encourages participation in a friendly and accepting manner, helping group members to interact in a supportive manner. When differences of opinion arise, the group leader harmonizes and compromises, helping group members to constructively work out their differences of opinion and conflicts in a constructive manner. Relieving tension in this way also helps the group leader to increase the enjoyment of group interaction.

In the interactive process, the leader also acts as evaluator, establishing the emotional climate of the group, and ensuring that everybody is optimally functioning according to the group objectives. As process observer, the group leader furthermore establishes whether his or her evaluations are accurate, and makes adjustments according to the findings.

It is important for the group leader to be an active listener in order to help the group members express their ideas openly and honestly. This builds trust and helps the leader to solve interpersonal problems within the group.

Curtis notes the importance of recognizing that all these functions need not be fulfilled by a single group leader. Several leaders can be appointed for the group in order to optimize the skills of these individuals. A good listener can for example be appointed to solve the interpersonal problems within the group, while a more practical person can be appointed for establishing goals, evaluating and optimizing the group dynamic. In other words, leadership can be distributed in order to create an even more dynamic and effective group paradigm.

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles have received much attention in the organizational paradigm. It is also important to give due consideration to the various leadership styles that can be used when leading a smaller group within an organization. According to Curtis (1995), leadership styles may vary according to the age of the group, motivation, the situation of the group, and safety issues. If a leader for example teaches a skill, he or she would be task oriented, while a brain storming session might be more oriented towards providing the group members with greater autonomy.

Specifically, Curtis focuses upon situational leadership to expound upon the optimal leadership style for group situations. Situational leadership operates upon the principle that each situation requires a specific leadership style that is optimal. In other words, no particular leadership style is optimal for all situations. Task behavior, where a leader explains a task for example requires one-way communication, while relationship behavior requires two-way communication. Situational leadership then, according to the author, is based upon the interaction of various elements, including the amount of direction given by leaders, emotional support, and the maturity level of group participants. The latter refers to the ability of group members to interact towards setting goals. In other words, achievement motivation refers to setting goals that are relatively high, but achievable. This ability is often related to the willingness and ability of each group member to take responsibility, and any education or experience that may help to attain the goals.

Under the umbrella of situational leadership, Curtis notes that four styles can be identified to optimally relate to the various situations that might be expected within a group situation. These include high task/low relationship behavior, high task/high relationship behavior, high relationship/low task behavior, and low relationship/low task behavior. Each of these operate according to the level of task and interaction in a specific group situation. The leadership style used in each case is also related to the specific maturity level of group participants in order to optimize the outcomes of group interaction. In this, Curtis suggests that the leader first establish the maturity level of the group before deciding upon a specific style of leadership. This is then related to the specific task to be accomplished, and the most effective leadership style is chosen accordingly. The author notes that this is a dynamic concept, with the leadership style changing according to the change in the group's maturity level.

The author emphasizes the fact that no single leadership style can be viewed as the "best," even in one specific situation. Instead, leadership styles should be seen as the "most effective," and subject to change according to the situation and persons involved. If the first-established "most effective" style does not appear to be such, this is subject to change until an optimal level of leadership is found.

Delegation occurs on the basis of group maturity and situation demands. Leadership includes the responsibility of identifying individuals who can optimally handle the increased responsibilities of delegated leadership. This alleviates the pressure on the leader to perform all leadership functions, and also establishes a protocol of interpersonal trust within the group.

Leadership Characteristics

According to NP Action (2005), there are eight characteristics that establish an effective leader within a group setup. Leadership is a process of influence, in which group members are motivated towards certain tasks, paradigms and beliefs. According to the authors, leaders need to have eight specific characteristics in order to perform their functions optimally. These include vision, motivation, emotional intelligence, the ability to empower, trustworthiness, the ability to take risks and follow through, and finally humor.

Vision means that the leader is able to clearly explain to group members the future outcomes of the group process. This is a success-oriented paradigm, in which leaders show what the outcome of successful goals will be, rather than what the situation currently is. A leader also understand the elements that motivates group members. For this, it is necessary to understand the various personalities represented within the specific group, and also the specific things that are important to individuals and to the group collectively. This can be connected to emotional intelligence, which refers to handling emotionally charged situations, as well as understanding the emotional paradigms within each individual on a deeper level. The above enables the leader to empower group members. In this way, the leader uses emotional intelligence, vision, and motivation in order to teach group members the dynamics of accomplishing tasks successfully by themselves. Such success means a further motivation factor for group members.

Via emotional intelligence and successful goal accomplishment, the leader establishes trust from group members, as well as among the group members themselves. This is an important element in providing group members with motivation to accomplish further goals. Such trust will enable the leader to help the group collectively take risks. Calculated risks often translate into further goal accomplishment and motivation.

In all aspects of leadership, the leader continues the motivation process by his or her own ability towards focus and follow-through. This…

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