Leadership theories are everywhere. They actually stand for the majority of theoretical knowledge in the sphere of human resources and management. A big part of that knowledge lies in the domain of group theory, which stands for the particular form of leadership emerged out of a group itself for its advantage. The current paper defines group theory of leadership, groups as such, practical methods of their development, and practical implications of the theory in leadership practice.
Group theory of leadership was developed in 1930s and, in fact, it defined how leadership emerged and developed in small groups (Day & Antonakis, 2012, p. 87). Currently, group theory stands for a very peculiar form of leadership theory. It actually perceives the group, a small firm, or some specific consortium as the starting point and not the leader or manager as a person (Heap, 2011, p. 13). In fact, this group focus yielded the way for the organizational behavior approach. Thanks to that, leadership started to be viewed as the method to initiate and maintain groups or organizations in order to achieve group’s or company’s goals. According to the group theory, leadership is a process in which a person impacts a whole group of people in order to obtain a collective objective and a common purpose (Day & Antonakis, 2012, p. 92). Generally speaking, leadership appears in groups, while groups are the context in which leadership takes place. These can be a small task group, a community group, or a large group incorporating an entire company or organization. Groups can be defined as a gathering of individuals, working together in an attempt of obtaining the common purpose and goal (Heap, 2011, p. 29). Group theory suggests utilization of a group work as a major technique of achieving common organizational objectives. Group work as a social work method can be used in order to assist group members in enhancing their social performance via outright group practice. It also helps group members cope more efficiently with their individual, group, or organizational issues. Such a definition demonstrates a tradition within group-work of helping group members with complicated issues (Day & Antonakis, 2012, p. 103).
Efficient groups with a proper group leadership should enhance the significance of all its constituent participants. Group theory suggests that one of the practical methods of establishing such communication and understanding depends on competent leadership. In accordance with the group theory, effective leadership relies on the reconciliation of three variables, including the group tasks, personal requirements, and group performance (Day & Antonakis, 2012, p. 98).
Group theory frequently describes leadership within a context of three various leadership styles, including laissez-faire, democratic, and autocratic (or authoritarian) ones. The first style, which stands for laissez-faire allows group participants doing as much as they desire without the leader suggesting judgments on other participants’ resolutions (Heap, 2011, p. 32). This group leadership style performs the best in well performing and operating group, especially when the group is working towards a well-defined objective. This practical method is exceedingly complicated when more than a half of the group participants are present. Moreover, it is frequently utilized in sub-groups collected to operate peculiar subareas (Heap, 2011, p. 37). For instance, the PTV (Planung Transport Verkehr) team utilizes this method for brainstorming concrete concepts for projects and designs because the non-judgmental treatment stimulates more group resolutions (Heap, 2011, p. 56).
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The second style, which concerns democratic leadership, allows taking consultations and discussions prior to making decisions. This practical group theory method gives the possibility to group participants to have their say. However, it does not avouch that these ideas and desires will be included in the general mission of a group operation process (Heap, 2011, p. 76). For example, this leadership style is a perfect method of leadership in youth work because such groups are more likely to collaborate to the decision making process. In addition, the group is more interested in buying-in to the resolution which have been already made. Similarly to the previous style, this method performs the best with smaller groups, the bigger the group the longer the decision making process will tend to become (Heap, 2011, p. 78). It is frequently more suitable to divide a very large group into sub-groups in order to assure that all participants will have a possibility to add their considerations to decision making. Afterwards, the company has to converse all group members again into a plenary session during which all concepts can be listened and analyzed for getting a principal group resolution (Northouse, 2010, p. 65). This style has been utilized within the AIESEC international group in order to obtain a common sense of affiliating to the team. Furthermore, it aims at getting all the participants to the huge process of formulating general company’s goal and objective (Heap, 2011, p. 34).
The third leadership style utilized to work with a group concerns autocratic or authoritarian method (Northouse, 2010, p. 67). This leadership style presupposes that the leader is the only individual participating in the decision-making process within the whole group. Afterwards, the data and the decisions are passed on to the team rather than the choices being disputed publicly (Northouse, 2010, p. 69). For example, The New York Times is ranked to be among the top ten autocratic leadership companies. This method is beneficial for very large groups because an autocratic leader can accelerate a decision making procedure (Nayab, 2011).
In practice, it is important to remember that sometimes leadership styles might not work, as groups pass through a number of stages in a process of their formulation. Therefore, it is crucial to select leadership style in accordance with the current stage of group development. The group theory of leadership suggests that there are five major stages.
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The first stage incorporates forming, and this is a period when individual relationships are featured by dependence (Northouse, 2010, p. 98). Therefore, group participants try to depend on secure and patterned conduct and look to the group leader for control, management, and course.
The second stage stands for storming (Zohar & Tenne-Gazit, 2008, p. 750). This is a period of competition and conflicts in the individual-relationships dimension. The fact that group members have different opinions in the process of decision-making inevitably causes the worsening of personal relations (Northouse, 2010, p. 65). Group participants are characterized as having “testing and confirming” mentality and they need to transfer to a problem-solving one. Leaders should be able to listen to group members at this stage and help them to develop (Nayab. 2011). A lot of young business companies and start-up projects have problems with this stage because they select laissez-faire leadership style for working with the team, while democratic or even autocratic ones would be more appropriate (Nayab, 2011). These companies do not have stable core group members, who would create a major group of the company. Therefore, not all of the opinions of fresh group participants are important for the achieving of common purpose. Leader has to select the best ones and help others to develop problem-solving characteristics. There are numerous examples of companies, which failed due to the inability of their teams to transfer to the third stage. In fact, if the second stage does not end, the company fails to achieve its purpose, loses time and money.
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The third stage is known as norming. This is a period, which is featured by cohesion (Zohar & Tenne-Gazit, 2008, p. 750). Group participants become engaged in vigorous recognition of all members’ contributions and resolving of group problems. Participants can alter their biased concepts and idea on the basis of facts demonstrated by other participants.
The fourth stage is named performing. This is a time when group members can work separately, in subgroups, or as a common unit with identical facilities (Zohar & Tenne-Gazit, 2008, p. 751). Their functions and powers dynamically adjust to the altering requirements of the team and participants. Interdependence in personal relationships and problem solving in the realm of task operations mark this stage.
The last stage is known as adjourning and it incorporates the cease of task conducts and dismissal from relationships (Zohar & Tenne-Gazit, 2008, 752).
Google Inc. is probably the best example of the perfect teamwork. The company understands that their teams are their major key to success. Google Inc. group members have their specific name ‘Googlers’ (Murray, 2011). The company is known to utilize laissez-faire leadership style for its groups and teams. Google Inc. tries to empower the team to work independently and never micromanages their activity. The company leader has an ability to communicate and listen to group members. Therefore, new team participants have a tendency to quickly transfer from a “testing and proving” mentality to a problem-solving one.It makes them valuable participants of the decision-making procedure (Murray, 2011).
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On the other hand, the capacity of Google Inc. leaders to set a clear vision and strategy for the teams, allows it working independently, which accelerates the achieving of the goal and objectives of the company. Google Inc. can be considered as a best example of high-performing teams (Murray, 2011). Their methods can be used as a beneficial practical guide for applying the group theory. Firstly, all the group members come to meetings inclined, and tasks are completed in good time. Secondly, all group members listen to one another, respect ideas and opinions of others. Moreover, group participants suggest their ideas in a condensed manner and look for feedback from others. Furthermore, all decisions are made by consensus. Finally, the group is able to evaluate it performance and seeks for ways to work more efficiently in a group (Murray, 2011).
In conclusion, the current paper defined the group theory of leadership. Moreover, it helped to understand the meaning of the leadership in a context of group theory, defined groups, most appropriate leadership styles, and the most complicated issues of the group development process. The combination of selected information allowed vivid presenting of practical applications of the theory in real-world circumstance.
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