Leaders in Small Group Communication

“Leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something you are convinced should be done”

–Vance Packard

Every group has a leader, in some groups there is only one, where as in others there are a few. Leaders are picked in many different ways, some are chosen because they have a high ranking position within the organization or company, some are voted in, others emerge because they are more outspoken and some are just good at “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Either way, the leadership role is vital to the success of the group.

Leadership was actually the topic of research at one time and researchers found that there are basically four different approaches.

1. The Traits Approach: A born leader, the kind of person that Donald Trump is looking for in “The Apprentice”. They naturally possess the traits of a leader some of which are intelligence, self-confidence, accountability, dependability, decisiveness and sociability. The only problem with this approach is that there is more than one formula for leadership. In the videogame industry, a leader would be youthful, creative, energetic and humorous, but for a medical research team, being older, more serious and experienced would be more fitting.

2. The Functional Approach focuses on what the leader should do in certain situations, which includes setting goals, giving direction and summarizing the group’s progress.

3. The Transformational Approach depicts a transformational, visionary or charismatic leader who builds up the group members so that in the end the task is accomplished and they also emerge as more empowered individuals. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a transformational leader.

4. In the Situational Approach, the leader must continually switch their focus between achieving the goal and the satisfaction and morale of the group. When using this approach, the leader must assess exactly what kind of leadership the group needs. Four basic styles have been identified:

• The telling style, which is appropriate in a classroom setting or when the leader is much older and wiser than the group. The leader tells them what needs to be done and how they will go about doing it.

• The selling style, which would be used by a coach to tell the team what needs to be done then motivate them to do it.

• In the participatory style, the leader’s role is much more subtle, they merely motivate and support. This style would be effective for a group of adult volunteers.

• Then, there is the delegating style, where the leader really doesn’t do much. They might lend a little support or a morale boost if needed but they let the group set their own goals and do things their way.

Part of what makes leadership complicated is the fact that the group’s maturity level will evolve as the group progresses, which means that the leadership style must change also.

Functions of Leadership

• Prepare Members and Start Interaction: If there is any preparation to be done before the group meets, the leader should inform the members through e-mail or any other.