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Many people believe this to be the case, that leadership qualities are inherent and will surface given the opportunity in the working world. However, more evidence leans in favour of the view that any normal person can be a leader, depending on time, place and circumstance. A usually quiet, shy individual in one group setting may be aggressive and loud in another group setting.
How and when a person shows leadership qualities depends on many factors, not the least of which are: his/her self-image, knowledge of a particular subject, peer support, his/her level of commitment to group goals or philosophy, age, past experiences with groups, community status, and so forth. It is entirely possible (witness the armed forces) to ‘train’ or teach others in the skills of leadership, but whether they use this added knowledge in a leadership role rests on the person’s willingness to try. There is no better instructor than practice.
Leaders develop styles over time and in the position they are given or inherit. Many of you are aware already what these styles are, but here is a refresher for those who forget or don’t know.
Types of leadership style
- the ‘front man’ – a group member who has skills at dealing with outsiders
- the ‘idea man’ – regularly suggests alternative routes to take
- the ‘inspirational figure’ – attempts to judge group functions morally
- the ‘wisdom purveyor’ – cites previous cases of conflict and solutions
- the ‘expediter’ – an efficiency expert, concerned with time and process
- the ‘game leader’ – tries different ways to lift spirits with jokes, etc.
- the ‘master of technique’ – a systems expert, oriented around agenda
Some leadership functions associated with style
- Organization – structures his/her work and that of others
- Integration – manages, resolves conflict, creates a positive atmosphere
- Internal data management – helps information exchange and feedback
- Membership – makes sure he/she (and others) remains a member of the group
- Initiation – leader encourages new ideas and practices
- Gatekeeping – filters data entering and leaving the group
- Production – responsible for task accomplishment
- Reward – evaluates members’ behaviour and fosters a positive attitude
- Representation – defends the group from external threats; spokesman
There are many models of group development leaders work with, and you are probably familiar with some of these. They grew out of many management training manuals and leadership theories from the 1960s and 1970s, but still apply today. Growth direction is to the right >.
Model A. Inclusion > Control > Affection > Intimacy
Model B. Forming (testing and independence; attempts to identify task) > Storming (development of intragroup conflicts; emotional responses to task demands) > Norming (development of group cohesion, expression of opinions) > Performing (functional role-relatedness, emergence of solutions)
Model C. “Gimme” > “Gripe” > “Grope” > “Grasp”
In effect, what leaders in newly formed and continuous groups do, is: a) set the climate for discussion, b) develop structure for planning together, c) identify needs, d) state the objectives, goals or mission, e) design the methods to achieve these, f) do it, as a group or team, and g) evaluate what you have done.
Finally, leaders who are experienced and successful, must deal with channels or networks of communication within the group (or organization) which are discernible but also which change over time. Networks have less to do with physical location of members than with manifest or latent opportunities to communicate. From formal meetings that are set up, to at the water-cooler gossip sessions, networks can influence more or less, the quality of decisions made, member satisfaction, and overall group or corporate efficiency.
More next time about conflict resolution caused by communication breakdowns.