Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Leadership Behavior and Conflict Management in Small Groups Essay Example for Free

Leadership Behavior and Conflict Management in Small Groups Essay Small groups of people with common interests often come together to exchange information, collaborate and cooperate in the pursuit of a shared goal. These members have the time and space to meet and share ideas through interaction and participation. When such groups face tough and insurmountable problems it helps to have a visionary leader to help them cooperate and work together as a team (Forsyth, 2006). The study of small groups helps us to understand basic human behavior and how leaders transform groups and resolve conflicts (Hare, 1965). According to Forsyth, Donelson â€Å"Leadership is the process by which an individual guides others in their pursuits, often by organizing, directing, coordinating, supporting and motivating their efforts†. The process of leadership has evolved basically from the need to be organized. We observe similar qualities in the flock of birds that fly across the sky and among the herd of elephants deep in the jungles. But with humans, leadership processes have become as varied and complex as the many research studies that have been conducted. The leadership process is reciprocal, when it is mutually influences the leader and the follower, transactional when both the leaders and followers work together for common goals, transformational when leaders are able to inspire their followers into doing their best, cooperative when members select their leader voluntarily, adaptive when members are motivated to achieving group goals, task oriented when the leader focuses all the activities of the followers towards the achievement of group goals and relationship oriented when the focus is on the interpersonal relationship between group members. (Forsyth, 2006). While leadership processes are varied, the qualities found in leaders are also equally diverse. Though inborn personality traits are helpful in small group settings like being sociable, outgoing and expressive most leadership traits are acquired (Barrick Mount 1991). Normally leaders tend to be more intelligent than their followers in small groups. But most groups find it difficult to handle leaders with very high intellectual abilities (C. A. Gibb, 1969). On the other hand it is very helpful if a leader is endowed with emotional intelligence and the ability to be flexible to suit the demands of a particular situation (Kenny Zaccaro, 1983). Research studies have also shown that followers place undue importance to leaders who speak a lot more than necessary, as compared to leaders who are men of few words (Sorrentino Boutillier, 1975). The intriguing phenomenon of effective leadership has given rise to varying theories. Each of them has their related leadership training program as well. According to Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, a leader’s effectiveness depends on the way he relates to hi followers and in his ability to control situations. Here he specified three factors that influenced the leader’s control; the cohesiveness of the group, the concentration of power in the hands of the leader and whether group goals were structured or not. Using the Least Preferred Worker Scale (LPC), he rated people who were relationship oriented high and those who were task oriented low on the LPC score. The Octants based on this show that the task oriented leaders are effective when situations are highly favorable and unfavorable and relationship oriented leaders are effective in moderate situations (Forsyth, 2006). Fiedler has taken into consideration the good and the bad leader-member relations, the structured and unstructured goals. But groups goals are sometimes partly structured, leaders have average power and there exists fair leader- member relations. This middle range seems more possible and plausible while considering small group situations. In Robert Blake and Jane Mouton’s The Leadership Grid the focus, is again on task and relationship orientation, and they have come up with five different styles of leadership. In the ‘apathetic’ approach the leader has no interest in either achieving goals or improving group relations. The ‘country club’ approach as the name suggests adopts a friendly working atmosphere. While the ‘middle road approach’ has a leader who balances the work done and maintains the morale of the people; the ‘task master’ gets the work done and is less concerned about the feelings of the group members. The ‘team work approach’, is considered the best as its members are committed to their goal and share a feeling of mutual trust and respect (Forsyth, 2006). The style of the leadership depends on the maturity of the group members according to the Situational Leadership Theory given by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard. They emphasize that an effective leader should display four styles of leadership. An effective leader should ‘direct’ the group members when they are inexperienced, ‘coach’ them as their competence level increases, offer ‘support’ when they are moderately mature and ‘delegate’ tasks when they are committed (Forsyth, 2006). Though this approach doesn’t talk about task and relationship orientation it is feasible in small groups. The Leader Member Exchange (LMX) approach is based on how members respond to their leaders. If they value their leader there is a heightened level of efficiency, commitment and loyalty and they become a part of the privileged inner group. The others who do not respond positively form the outer group and continue to do their work. The key to the leader’s effectiveness depends on his capacity to bring all his followers within the inner group (Forsyth, 2006). The Lewin-Lippitt-White study focused on the control the leader had over his group and their level of participation. Under laboratory conditions they studied the effect of shared and unshared power in the context of small groups. Groups with an authoritarian leader reflected greater dependence and showed signs of more conflict, whereas under a democratic leader group members learnt to be more self reliant. The laissez-faire group was added later with a leader who rarely interfered and followers who learnt to make their own decisions. This group wasn’t as cohesive as the democratic style that emerged the best. The group with a democratic leader had the highest group oriented suggestions, more friendly behavior and less critical discontent (Forsyth, 2006). Since power was shared participants felt empowered to make meaningful decisions towards the achievement of a shared goal. This study in fact supports the concept of collective leadership as well. Craig L Pearce Jay Conger (2003) studied the effectiveness of ‘shared leadership’ when the group was removed from a traditional organizational approach. They found that groups with collective leadership outperformed the leader oriented groups. They were also the most effective in small group situations. Bernard Bass (1997) presented the Theory of Transformational Leadership based on the charisma of the leader to transform his followers. Under the influence of an inspirational leader, group members unite to show increased efficiency in pursuing collective goals. A transformational leader tends to questions old beliefs and leads his followers along paths that are not chartered, setting new trends (Forsyth, 2006). With more emphasis placed on interpersonal relations these leaders are effective in both small and large groups. Being eloquent, a charismatic leader initiates dialogues on issues where differences of opinion arise. Such open minded brain storming sessions would bring about several solutions and the group might end up accepting a hybrid goal where the best ideas have been incorporated. This builds cohesiveness and improves cooperation within the group (Potter, 1996). The charismatic leaders have a reputation of integrity and their followers show a tendency to emulate them. (Eagly, Johannesen- Schmidt Van Engen, 2003). But charismatic leaders are rare and even these exceptional leaders can get things wrong. Something that seems morally and ethically right for one person may not be so for another. Keeley, 1998). Another question that has fascinated researchers is whether men and women show different leadership behavior and do gender differences influence the process of leadership. Though historical evidence supports the fact that women have been underrepresented in leadership roles, research studies show that gender does not influence the effectiveness of a leader with both sexes displaying a balanced task and relationship orientation (Forsyth, 2006). Both men and women who hold similar positional and resource power show similarities in leadership behavior (Kanter, 1997). Women leaders show a tendency to be more agreeable, open, fair, responsible and increasingly involved in conflict management, whereas men are inclined towards power, influence and skill orientation (Forsyth, Schenker, Leary McCown, 1985). Thus the sexes differ in the styles of leadership with women adopting transformational and participative approaches, while men are likely to exhibit authoritarian, laissez-faire and transactional styles (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt Van Engen, 2003). Conflict management is a major challenge faced by leaders across the world. Conflict is a natural occurrence in competitive group situations. A disagreement over beliefs and actions can lead to a conflict if it is resisted. Through an interaction process analysis Robert Blake and his colleagues observed that group members spent one fifth of their time in making hostile comments. When task achievement became difficult, hostility increased and escalated into a conflict (Forsyth, 2006). The best method to manage conflict would be to have an open debate on the issue (Montana Charnov, 2000), instead of ignoring or brushing aside conflicts, an effective leader should confront it head on (Davies, Burke, Calbom Kindler, 1991). The current trend shows that leaders and followers are expected to be in contact 24/7 (Murphy Riggio). It has in turn given rise to virtual offices, having virtual teams working out of their homes in different parts of the globe. . This increased dependence in information technology has given way to e-leadership (Avolio, Kahai Dodge, 2000). In the future new leadership trends will be reinvented as business environments keep changing. Traditional power oriented organizations will give way to power sharing ones. Organizations will get decentralized, along with a cooperative use of resources (Forsyth, 2006). Competency then will depend on the leader’s vision of the future, intellectual capacity, strategic thinking, emotional strength and the ability to coordinate and develop human capital (Rivard, 2004). Together with team building and leadership, conflict resolution as a skill will have to be acquired by people interacting in small groups (Gregory Parry, 2006). It will help them to lead the world that’s growing flatter.

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