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Chapter 8 Group Leadership

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Introductory Exercises

  1. Please indicate your favorite superhero, movie star, or inspirational leader that you perceive has qualities worthy of learning from to apply in your own life. What traits or behaviors to they possess or exhibit that inspire you and why? Please share your results with your classmates.
  2. Please list five facts, points, or things about you that you would want an audience to know about you as a professional. Post your results and compare with classmates.
  3. Leadership Interview

    Name of Student: _________________________________________________________

    Name of Person Interviewed: _________________________________________________________

    What is leadership? Do you think leadership is the same now as in the past, or will change in the future?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Peter Drucker, economist, management guru, author (1909–2005)

A good leader inspires others with confidence; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves.


Getting Started

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Leadership in groups and organization can be an opportunity and a challenge. How we approach it can make all the difference. In this chapter we explore what leadership is, how we become leaders, the role of teamwork and interdependence in leadership, and finally diverse forms and representations of leadership in action.

Leadership is a complicated and mystery thing. Is it a behavior or set of actions? Is it a talent, that some are born with while others are not? Is it an ability to communicate clearly and effectively with contagious enthusiasm? These are some of the questions we’ll address in this chapter but first let’s be clear: There is no universal definition of leadership. Across cultures what we consider leadership varies greatly, and yet we know it when we see it. We are not born with it, but our experiences can influence our ability to act when the context demands action.

Communication is learned, not innate, and how we learn to follow, and to lead, is a reflection of that process. We can learn to lead in more effective ways. We can solve new challenges in collaborative ways. We can respond to a crisis with skill and expertise, learned from drill and practice. We can make a difference in the groups in which we participate, as leaders or followers. In this chapter we explore the many fascinating aspects of leadership.

8.1 What is Leadership?

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objective

  1. Define and describe leadership.

When you hear the word “leadership” what comes to mind? Is it Superman, with amazing abilities to overcome almost all obstacles combined with altruism and his concern for humanity? Is it Lara Croft, the fictional video game character who solves all her own problems and doesn’t need anyone to save her as she is no “damsel in distress?” Is it the action movie hero, alone against all odds, the rises from the ashes victorious? Is it the person who, observing that someone is choking and cannot breathes, performs the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the obstruction and saving someone’s life? Or finally, is the person who gets up every morning, helps others at their tasks and on their way, who juggles two jobs and more responsibilities than they can count, and still remains accessible, helpful, and caring day after day? You might answer all of the above and to a certain extent you would be correct, but we need to examine these distinct expressions of leadership to learn from each one.

Superman represents the ideal hero for some, with a combination of strength and virtue. Natural born leaders have been discussed, explored, and investigated time and time again across history. It was once thought that a leader was born, not made, but the evidence indicates otherwise. What makes a leader is complicated and not easy to define. Across cultures leadership is considered many things, and requires many different, if not opposing, behaviors. There is no universal standard, trait, or quality that makes a leader, but still people sometimes look to a strong leader to solve their problems. Some cultures have embraced a single person’s leadership without checks or balances, like Stalin or Hitler, only to learn devastating lessons that cost millions of lives. There is no superman.

Therefore, what does make a leader? Is it a combination of talents (that you are born with) and skills (that you learn in life)? Ligon, Hunter, and MumfordLigon, G.S., Hunter, S.T. & Mumford, M.D. (2008). Development of outstanding leadership: A life narrative approach. The Leadership Quarterly, 19 (3) 312–334. explore exceptional leaders in Development of outstanding leadership: A life narrative approach. Their goal was to further understanding of how different childhood and young adult experiences may impact leadership, searching for identifiable patterns in predicting different types of leadership. Their conclusion may surprise you: what makes a leaderIndividuals who, in the presence of a crisis or challenge, can formulate and implement a plan of action. across contexts are individuals who, in the presence of a crisis or challenge, can formulate and implement a plan of action. LeadershipThe ability to effectively formulate and implement a plan of action based on the context., therefore, is the ability to effectively formulate and implement a plan of action based on the context. The person who calls 911 when someone appears to have a heart attack has observed and assessed the situation, and creates a rational plan to address the current crisis. What might be normally considered a simple phone call, in this context, becomes of paramount importance. The ability to provide a location or street address, or describe observations, or even perform CPR while emergency services are in route are all examples of leadership in action. Even if the person doesn’t know CPR, the act of asking people in the area if anyone knows CPR and can help is matching needs to skill sets, an important aspect of leadership. Leadership can be demonstrated in your own life or can involve teams and groups.

There is no universal definition of leadership. Across cultures what we consider leadership varies greatly, and yet we know it when we see it. We are not born with it, but our experiences can influence our ability to act when the context demands action. To state that leadership is a mystery is an understatement. We cannot define it, and yet we can recognize it. So we start to use terms to describe what we observe and arrive at a definition, and then try to explain it, predict it, and develop it.

Throughout history, many people have speculated about leadership and its nature. Howe,Howe, W. (1996). Leadership vistas: From the constraints of the behavioral sciences to emancipation through the humanities. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 3(2), 32–69. for example, proposes the field of leadership is too narrowly viewed and challenges to be open to leadership in its many forms. This complexity makes it difficult for researchers, authors, or philosophers to arrive at a common definition of leadership. The behavioral sciences have been the home of many of these investigations, but as the field grows, leadership itself is increasingly considered a cross-disciplinary concept.

The study of leadership began with the focus on control and hierarchy,House, R. J., & Aditya, R. N. (1997). The social scientific study of leadership: Quo vadis? Journal of Management, 23(3), 409–4 73. but that is changing. For example, Mendenhall, Osland, Bird, Oddou, and MaxneyskiMendenhall, M., Osland, J., Bird, A., Oddou, G., & Mazneyski, M. (2008). Global leadership: Research, practice, and development. New York: NY: Routledge. explored global leadership and attempted to define a universal leader. They observed a shift from hierarchal leadership (the boss tells you what to do and how to do it) to a more participatory leadership (the boss discusses the task with the team as they formulate a plan). The ancient view of global leadership was one of domination, commanding followers, and clear demonstrations of the power of a leader. This reflected a more of authoritarian style than a participative style of leadership that we observe today. According to Rajah, Song and Arvey,Rajah, R., Song, Z. & Arvey, R., A., (2011). Emotionality and leadership: Taking stock of the past decade of research. Leadership Quarterly, 22, 1107–1119. there a current shift from the perceptive of a leaders’ controlling perspective to one of the followers’ participatory perspective. Across fields, leadership is increasing perceived as a dynamic relationship involving leader-follower behaviors. Today, issues such as diversity, gender, culture and ethics are increasingly considered relevant, even critical, elements of leadership. Day and AntonakisDay, D., & Antonakis, J. (2012) The nature of leadership: Second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. suggest a new paradigm where leadership is, in fact, just starting to be understood as a hybrid approach that combines insights, frameworks, strategies, and approaches across disciplines.

As globalization increases and our interconnected world becomes smaller, there is a growing appreciation for the role of an effective leader in terms of vision, success, and overall organization effectiveness. Leaders are required to possess increasingly complex skill sets and are expected to effectively communicate with individuals, groups and teams, and within and between organizations. This gives rise to the central question: how best to prepare or develop effective leaders? Avolio, Walumbwa, & WeberAvolio, B., Walumbwa, F., & Weber, T. (2009) Leadership: Current Theories, Research, Future Direction Annual Review of Psychology 60 (2009), pp. 421–449; doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.16362 provide a developmental approach, conceptualizing authentic leadership as a pattern of leadership behavior that develops from a combination of positive psychological qualities and strong ethics. Avolio, Walumbwa, & WeberAvolio, B., Walumbwa, F., & Weber, T. (2009) Leadership: Current Theories, Research, Future Direction Annual Review of Psychology 60 (2009), pp. 421–449; doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.16362 also suggest that leadership is composed of four distinct but related components; self-awareness, internalized moral perspectives, balanced processing, and relational transparency.

We can observe that leadership has been investigated, and that it has many factors, but we are still challenged to fully answer our central question: what is leadership? We’ll conclude with a term from the US Navy: deckplate leadershipAn effective leader has to be on the deck of the ship, interacting and learning what are the challenges, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities present, emphasizing both task orientation and relationships.. Get out of the office and get on the deckplates. It means that, in order to get the job done an effective leader has to be on the deck of the ship, interacting and learning what are the challenges, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities present, emphasizing both task orientation with relationship. That takes initiative, self-motivation, skills, and talent, all elements of effective leadership. You, as a student, are taking charge of your education. As we proceed in our exploration of leadership remember to get up, get out, and see the many examples of leadership all around you.

Key Takeaway

Leadership traits, situational leadership, functional leadership, and transformative leadership comprise four key approaches to leadership theory.


  1. What has been your experience to date as a leader? Discuss your thoughts with classmates.
  2. Describe a leader that you know or have known in the past that you perceived as skilled or effective. How did they act and what did they do that was inspirational? Write a 2–3 paragraph discussion of your experience and share it with a classmate.
  3. Think of a leader you were challenged to follow or perceived as ineffective. What did they do or say that was ineffective? How would you characterize this leader’s style (use descriptive terms) and why? Please share your observations with your classmates.

8.2 Leadership Theories

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objective

  1. Define and describe traits, situational, context-based, and transformative leadership theories.

There are many perspectives on leadership, but they generally fall into four main categories: leadership traits, situational or context-based leadership, functional leadership, and transformational leadership. Let’s examine each in turn.

The first approach we’ll consider is the oldest of all: universal leadership traitsThe view that there are inherent traits, that may be part of a person from birth as in talents, or acquired skills that express those in-born traits, that are somehow universal or constant across contexts and cultures., or the view that there are inherent traits, that may be part of a person from birth as in talents, or acquired skills that express those in-born traits, that are somehow universal or constant across contexts and cultures. It is a significant challenge to even begin to consider the many contexts where leadership might be displayed, and so instead of focusing on the context, in this view we focus on the individual and his or her traits. Some studiesBass, B. (1981). Traits of Leadership: A follow-up to 1970. In R.M. Stogdill (ed.), Handbook of Leadership. New York: Free Press, pp. 73–96., Baker, D. (1990). A qualitative and quantitative analysis of verbal style and the elimination of potential leaders in small groups. Small Group Research, 38, pp. 13–26. have indicated that people in leadership possess the following ten traits as shown in Table 8.1 "Universal Leadership Traits".

Table 8.1 Universal Leadership Traits

Trait Explanation Example
1 Achievement Orientation A clear focus on achievement She consistently makes time in her busy schedule for her school work. She is focused on completing her degree.
2 Adaptability The ability to adapt to the context, including constraints or resources, to be successful She understands the challenges of running a household and raising children on a budget, and still makes her studies a priority.
3 Energy The ability to devote time, concentration, and effort to a challenge Even though she is tired in the evening she makes time, after the children have gone to bed, to complete her studies each night.
4 Intelligence The ability to perceive, understand, formulate a response to, and implement a plan of action to solve a challenge There are never enough hours in the day, but she understands the challenges, sets priorities, and consistently gets the job done.
5 Innovation The ability to perceive alternate plans of action to achieve similar or improved results She understands the challenge and finds a faster, more efficient way to get the job done.
6 Persistence The ability to persevere, or to stick with a challenge until it is solved. She consistently completes her work on time, has completed all of her classes to date successfully, and is on track to graduate as planned.
7 Responsibility The ability to respond and the awareness of duty, obligation, or commitment to solve a challenge She knows she has the ability to respond to the many challenges, recognizes the importance of a university degree to herself and her children, and completed her obligations.
8 Self-confidence The confidence in one’s ability to solve a challenge She knows she can do it.
9 Sociability The ability to interact with others effectively She can work in groups effectively, even with challenging members.
10 Verbal Communication Ability The ability to articulate effectively, or express one’s thoughts, ideas, or opinions in ways that others can understand them with minimal or no miscommunication She can express herself effectively. People understand her when she speaks.

As we review these terms we can observe many of them in ourselves and others in daily life. Are leaders those who possess all ten traits? Are these ten traits the only traits that represent leadership? No on both counts. Leaders may possess or exhibit some or all of these traits, but not all the time in every context. In addition, what we consider leadership in one context might be considered insubordination in another. Cultures vary as to their expectations for leaders and what traits they must possess, and we learn culture from each other. We are not born with it. We learn to communicate from and with each other. We are not built with an innate ability to communicate and our surroundings, including those who model behaviors for us, influence how we communicate with ourselves and others. If we are raised in a community where people take responsibility for their challenges and work together to solve them, we are more likely to model that behavior. If we are raised in a community that looks to an institution or an individual to solve problems for them, we are more likely to expect our problems to be solved for us. Since we can see that our environment influences our communication, our culture, and these traits, let’s examine alternatives as we continue to explore the concept of leadership.

Our second approach to leadership shifts the focus or attention from the individual to the context, or situation. As we discussed previously, this makes for a significant challenge. How can we assess the myriad of situation factors at any given moment in time? In reality we cannot, but we can make the concerted effort to limit the factors we consider and explore the influence of context on our behaviors, including those associated with leadership within a specific cultural framework.

Situational leadershipLeadership adapted to the specific context, and that leadership itself depends on the situation at hand., or leadership in context, means that leadership itself depends on the situation at hand. In sharp contrast to the “natural born leader,” “universal leadership traits” model of leadership we previously discussed, this viewpoint is relativist. Leadership is relative, or varies, based on the context. There is no one “universal trait” to which we can point or principle to which we can observe in action. There is no style of leadership that is more or less effective than another unless we consider the context. Then our challenge presents itself: how to match the most effective leadership strategy with the current context?

In order to match leadership strategies and context we first need to discuss the range of strategies as well as the range of contexts. While the strategies list may not be as long as we might imagine, the context list could go on forever. If we were able to accurately describe each context, and discuss each factor, we would quickly find the task led to more questions, more information, and the complexity would increase, making an accurate description or discussion impossible. Instead, we can focus our efforts on factors that each context contains and look for patterns, or common trends, that help us make generalizations about our observations.

For example, an emergency situation may require a leader to be direct, giving specific order to each person. Since each second counts the quick thinking and actions at the direction of a leader may be the most effective strategy. To stop and discuss, vote, or check everyone’s feelings on the current emergency situation may waste valuable time. That same approach applied to common governance or law-making may indicate a dictator is in charge, and that individuals and their vote are of no consequence. Instead an effective leader in a democratic process may ask questions, gather view points, and seek common ground as lawmakers craft a law that applies to everyone equally.

Hersey and BlanchardHersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition—Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall. take the situational framework and apply to an organizational perspective that reflects our emphasis on group communication. They assert that, in order to be an effective manager, one needs to change their leadership style based on the context, including the maturity of the people they are leading and the task details. Hersey and BlanchardHersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition—Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall. focus on two key issues: tasks and relationships, and present the idea that we can to a greater or lesser degree focus on one or the other to achieve effective leadership in a given context. They offer four distinct leadership styles or strategies (abbreviated with an “S”):

  1. Telling (S1). Leaders tell people what to do and how to do it.
  2. Selling (S2). Leaders provide direction, information, and guidance, but sell their message to gain compliance among group members.
  3. Participating (S3). Leaders focus on the relationships with group members and shares decision-making responsibilities with them.
  4. Delegating (S4). Leaders focus on relationships, rely on professional expertise or group member skills, and monitor progress. They allow group members to more directly responsible for individual decisions but may still participate in the process.

Telling and selling strategies are all about getting the task done. Participating and delegating styles are about developing relationships and empowering group members to get the job done. Each style or approach is best suited, according to Hersey and Blanchard,Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition—Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall. to a specific context. Again, assessing a context can be a challenging task but they indicate the focus should be on the maturity of the group members. It is a responsibility of the leader to assess the group members and the degree to which they possess the maturity to work independently or together effective, including whether they have the right combination of skills and abilities that the task requires. Once again, they offer us four distinct levels (abbreviated with “M” for maturity):

  1. M1, or level one. This is the most basic level where group members lack the skills, prior knowledge, skills, or self-confidence to accomplish the task effectively. They need specific directions, and systems of rewards and punishment (for failure) may be featured. They will need external motivation from the leader to accomplish the task.
  2. M2, or level two. At this level the group members may possess the motivation, or the skills and abilities, but not both. They may need specific, additional instructions or may require external motivation to accomplish the task.
  3. M3, or level three. In this level we can observe group members who are ready to accomplish the task, are willing to participate, but may lack confidence or direct experience, requiring external reinforcement and some supervision.
  4. M4, or level four. Finally we can observe group members that are ready, prepared, willing, and confident in their ability to solve the challenge or complete the task. They require little supervision.

Now it is our task to match the style or leadership strategy to the maturity level of the group members as shown in Table 8.2 "Situational Leadership: Leadership Style and Maturity Level".

Table 8.2 Situational Leadership: Leadership Style and Maturity Level

Leadership Style (S) Maturity Level (M)
1 S1 M1
2 S2 M2
3 S3 M3
4 S4 M4

This is one approach to situational leadership that applies to our exploration of group communication, but it doesn’t represent all approaches. What other factors might you consider other than style and maturity? How might we assess diversity, for example, in this approach? We might have a skilled professional who speaks English as their second language, and who comes from a culture where constant supervision is viewed as controlling or domineering, and if a leader takes a S1 approach to provide leadership, we can anticipate miscommunication and even frustration. There is no “One Size Fits All” leadership approach that works for every context, but the situational leadership viewpoint reminds us of the importance of being in the moment and assessing our surroundings, including our group members and their relative strengths and areas of emerging skill. The effective group communicator recognizes the Hersey-BlanchardHersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition—Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall. approach provides insight and possible solutions to consider, but also keeps the complexity of the context in mind when considering a course of action.

Our third approach to consider is called functional leadershipLeadership that focused on behaviors that address needs and help the group achieve its goals., or leadership that focused on behaviors that address needs and help the group achieve its goals.Hackman, J. R., & Walton, R. E. (1986). Leading groups in organizations. In P. S. Goodman (Ed.), Designing effective work groups (pp. 72–119). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass., McGrath, J. E. (1962). Leadership behavior: Some requirements for leadership training. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Civil Service Commission., Adair, J. (1988). Effective Leadership. London. Pan Books., Kouzes, J. M. and Posner, B. Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. The leader needs to assess needs, including task, team, and individual group member needs. Balance and performance are emphasized, and the time the leader spends on a specific approach varies based on their assessment of the area of need. The highest priority is completion of the task in this approach, but it is balanced against team and individual group member needs. Each activity or approach targets each area of need, and the leader focuses on it emphasize the area, alternating their time on any given activity based on the existing needs.

Table 8.3 Functional Leadership

Task Need Team Need Individual Need
1 Assessing the situation Training Training and Coaching
2 Understanding the task Building team spirit Recognizing individual skills and abilities; leveraging them on the task
3 Preparing the plan to address the task Focus on the mission; sense of purpose Focus on the mission; sense of purpose
4 Implementing the plan addressing the task Motivation, praise, and rewards Motivation, praise, and rewards
5 Allocating time and resources to the task Focus on the tempo or pace of performance Fostering interdependence while respecting individual performance, including roles and tasks
6 Re-evaluating the plan and making adjustments Status recognition or performance acknowledgement Status recognition or performance acknowledgement
7 Understanding Quality Standards Discipline, including sanctions and punishment Attending to personal problems
8 Quality control Quality Control Individual output
9 Evaluating outcomes Redirection, review of the action plan Individual role and task review
10 Sharing the outcomes (Communication) Facilitating group interactions (Communication) Individual interaction (Communication)

As we can see in Table 8.3 "Functional Leadership", the functional leader focuses on the short and long term needs of the group. If the group is lost, perhaps time invested in re-evaluating the plan and making adjustments, meeting a task and a team need at the same time, might prove effective. If an individual group member is struggling, perhaps supportive coaching and even additional training might yield results. Based on the leader’s assessment of the needs, they will select the appropriate action and maintain a priority order. They will also be constantly attuned to change, ready to adapt and meet the ever-changing needs of the task, team, or individual.

Our final approach to consider, called transformational leadershipLeadership that emphasizes the vision, mission, motivations, and goals of a group or team and motivates them to accomplish the task or achieve the result., emphasizes the vision, mission, motivations, and goals of a group or team and motivates them to accomplish the task or achieve the result. This model of leadership asserts that people will follow a person who inspires them, who clearly communicates their vision with passion, and helps get things done with energy and enthusiasm.

James MacGregor Burns, a presidential biographer, first introduced the concept, discussing the dynamic relationship between the leader and the followers, as they together motivate and advance towards the goal or objective.Burns, J. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper and Row. Bernard BassBass, B. (1985). Leadership and Performance. New York: Free Press. contributed to his theory, suggesting there are four key components of transformation leadership, as shown in Table 8.4 "Four Key Components of Transformational Leadership".

Table 8.4 Four Key Components of Transformational Leadership

Component of Transformational Leadership Explanation
1 Intellectual Stimulation Transformational leaders encourage creativity and ingenuity, challenging the status quo and encouraging followers to explore new approaches and opportunities.
2 Individualized Consideration Transformational Leaders recognize and celebrate each follower’s unique contributions to the group.
3 Inspirational Motivation Transformational Leaders communicate a clear vision, helping followers understand the individual steps necessary to accomplish the task or objective while sharing in the anticipation of completion.
4 Idealized Influence Transformational Leaders serve as role models, demonstrating expertise, skills, and talent that others seek to emulate, inspiring positive actions while reinforcing trust and respect.

The leader conveys the group’s goals and aspirations, displays passion for the challenge that lies ahead, and demonstrates a contagious enthusiasm that motivates group members to succeed. This approach focuses on the positive changes that need to occur in order for the group to be successful, and requires the leader to be energetic and involved with the process, even helping individual members complete their respective roles or tasks.

In this section we have discussed leadership traits, situational leadership, functional leadership, and finally transformative leadership theories. We can recognize that there are no universal traits associated with leadership, but there are traits that are associated with it that we develop across time through our experiences. We can also recognize that the context or situation makes a significant impact on leadership, and matching the situation to the leadership approach requires skill and expertise. Every challenge is unique in some way, and the effective leader can recognize that aligning their actions and support with the needs of the group makes sense. The functional perspective requires a leader to assess task needs, group needs, and individual needs, and then devote time, energy, and resources to them in priority order. Finally, a transformative leadership approach involves an articulate leader with a clear vision that is shared with energy and enthusiasm with followers, encouraging them to embrace the steps required as well as the end goal, objective, or mission result. Each approach offers us a viewpoint to consider as we approach leadership in teams, and all serve as important insights into how to better lead an effective group.

Key Takeaway

Leadership traits, situational leadership, functional leadership, and transformative leadership comprise four key approaches to leadership theory.


  1. Do you think natural leaders exist? Why or why not? Discuss your thoughts with classmates.
  2. Describe a transformative leader that you know or have known in the past. How did they act and what did they do that was inspirational? Write a 2–3 paragraph discussion of your experience and share it with a classmate.
  3. Think of a leader you admire and respect. Which approach do they best represent (traits, situational, functional, or transformative) and why? How would you characterize this leader’s style and why? Please share your observations with your classmates.

8.3 Becoming a Leader

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objective

  1. Describe three ways group members become leaders.

Whether or not there is a “natural leader,” born with a combination of talents and traits that enable a person to lead others, has been a subject of debate across time. In a modern context, we have come to recognize that leadership comes in many form and representations. Once it was thought that someone with presence of mind, innate intelligence, and an engaging personality was destined for leadership, but modern research and experience shows us otherwise. Just as a successful heart surgeon has a series of skill sets, so does a dynamic leader. A television producer must both direct and provide space for talent to create, balancing control with confidence and trust. This awareness of various leadership styles serves our discussion as groups and teams often have leaders, and they may not always be the person who holds the title, status, or role.

Leaders take on the role because they are appointed, elected, or emerge into the role. The group members play an important role in this process. An appointed leaderIndividual designated by an authority to serve in the leadership capacity. is designated by an authority to serve in that capacity, irrespective of the thoughts or wishes of the group. They may serve as the leader and accomplish all the designated tasks, but if the group does not accept their role as leader, it can prove to be a challenge. As TuckmanTuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384–399. notes, “storming” occurs as group members come to know each other and communicate more freely, and an appointed leader who lacks the endorsement of the group may experience challenges to his or her authority.

A democratic leaderIndividual elected by a group to serve as its leader. is elected or chosen by the group, but may also face serious challenges. If individual group members or constituent groups feel neglected or ignored, they may assert that the democratic leader does not represent their interests. The democratic leader involves the group in the decision-making process, and insures group ownership of the resulting decisions and actions as a result. Open and free discussions are representative of this process, and the democratic leader acknowledges this diversity of opinion.

An emergent leaderIndividual who grows into the leadership role, often out of necessity. contrasts the first two paths to the role by growing into the role, often out of necessity. The appointed leader may know little about the topic or content, and group members will naturally look to the senior member with the most experience for leadership. If the democratic leader fails to bring the group together, or does not represent the whole group, subgroups may form, each with an informal leader serving as spokesperson.

So if we take for granted that you have been elected, appointed, or emerged as a leader in a group or team you may be interested in learning a bit about how to lead. While we’ve discussed several theories on what makes a leader, and even examined several common approaches, we still need to answer the all-important question: how does one become an effective leader? There is no easy answer, but we will also take for granted that you recognize that a title, a badge, or a corner office does not make one an effective leader. Just because the boss says you are the leader of your work group doesn’t mean those members of the work group regard you as a leader, look to you to solve problems, or rely on you to inform, persuade, motivate, or promote group success.

“Research on leadership indicates that 50–75% of organizations are currently managed by people sorely lacking in leadership competence.Hogan, R. (2003). Leadership in Organizations. Paper presented at The Second International Positive Psychology Summit, Washington, D.C. October 2–5. They are hired or promoted based on technical competence, business knowledge and politics—not on leadership skill. Such managers often manage by crisis, are poor communicators, are insensitive to moral issues, are mistrustful, over-controlling and micro-managing, fail to follow through on commitments they’ve made and are easily excitable and explosive. The result is low morale, alienated employees, and costly attrition.Ostrow, E. (2008). 20 ways to become an effective leader. Retrieved on September 9, 2012 at:

Deckplate leadership is a US Navy approach to leadership that is applied and practical, and effectively serves our discussion. It means you need to get out of the office and get on the deckplates, the deck of the ship, or where the action is occurring. If you are in manufacturing it might be on the assembly line floor. If you are in sales, it might mean out where sales actually occur. Deckplate leadership means that, in order to get the job done an effective leader has to be on the deck of the ship, interacting and learning what are the challenges, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities present, emphasizing both task orientation with relationship. Jeff Wuorio,Wuorio, J. (2011). 8 tips for becoming a true leader. Microsoft Business for Small and Midsize Companies. Retrieved on September 9, 2012 from: of Microsoft Business for Small and Midsize Companies, offers an excellent list of suggestions, attributes, on how to become an effective leader that we’ve adapted in Table 8.5 "How to Become an Effective Leader".

Table 8.5 How to Become an Effective Leader

Attributes Explanation
1 Real leadership means leading yourself This is where it all starts. People respect you when you respect yourself, and one way to address this attribute is to meet your personal goals. Get up early, learn the skills and procedures, and be the meaningful, contributing member of a team or group. People will naturally look to you for solutions when your self-discipline combined with your skills allows them to accomplish their tasks or goals.
2 No dictators allowed. Sitting on a throne will not improve your leadership skills, gain you new, useful information, or develop you as a leader. Get on the deckplate, the assembly line floor, our out with the customer service representative to learn what is happening right now and be a resource for team members to solve problems.
3 Be open to new ways of doing things. One size does not fit all. What motivates one team member may not motivate the rest. You will need to be open to new approaches to achieve similar, or improved, results. The status quo, or the way we have always done it, is not an effective approach to produce improvements. While we may want to stick with what works, we have to keep in mind that as conditions and contexts change, those who adapt, thrive. Those who do not adapt become obsolete.
4 Value diversity Diversity in its many forms means more than race, gender, or even class distinctions. It means diverse perspectives that bring unique and often promising approaches to a challenge. Take advantage of this important aspect of teams and groups to produce outstanding results for everyone.
5 Establish and display a genuine sense of commitment. To be an effective leader you need to be committed to the mission, vision, or goal, and you need to display it clearly, communicating contagious enthusiasm and energy to team or group members. Slogans and programs that lack commitment will only be seen as meaningless, empty words. Bring the vision to life in action and deed.
6 Be results oriented Stephen Covey (1989)Covey, Stephen R. (1989) "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People." New York: Fireside promotes the approach of “begin with the end in mind” and here it clearly applies. We need to achieve results, and celebrate incremental steps towards the goal, in order to achieve it. As a leader you have to be results-oriented in today’s world, and be engaged with the process to observe, and highlight, incremental gains.
7 Demonstrate genuine appreciation A slap on the back or a handshake can be meaningful, but it is often not enough to celebrate success or motivate team members. Know your team well enough to know how each member prefers recognition and communicate it with respect. Your genuine efforts to acknowledge incremental progress will help your group members stay engaged, and help address fatigue or attrition.
8 Remember that leaders learn Once you have it all figured our it is time to recognize that you’ve lost your way. Contexts and conditions are constantly changing, and as in any dynamic system, so are we. If you are not renewing as a leader, learning new skills that can make a positive difference, then you become stale, detached, and obsolete. Change is an ever-present part of group dynamics.
9 An effective leader has, and shares, a plan A plan of action, clearly communicated and embraced by team members, can make all the difference. Being proactive means the leader needs to identify potential problems before they happen and providing solutions before they escalate into a crisis. Being reactive means addressing the challenge after it is already an issue, hardly an effective plan. While the ability to respond to an emergency is key, the effective leader anticipates challenges, and shares that awareness and understanding with team members.
10 Leaders know roles and responsibilities, and share them with the team An effective leader knows team members, their roles and responsibilities, and shares them with the group, promoting interdependence and peer recognition while remaining alert to the need for individual coaching, training, or reinforcement.

As we consider these attributes we can see the importance of communication throughout each one. The effective leader is engaged, practices active listening, and is open to learn as well as to instruct, coach, or cheer.

Developing Virtual Leadership

In order to be most effective, groups or teams need a sense of community. A communityA physical or virtual space where people seeking interaction and shared interest come together to pursue their mutual goals, objectives, and shared values can be defined as a physical or virtual space where people seeking interaction and shared interest come together to pursue their mutual goals, objectives, and shared values.Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in Cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. For our purposes, the setting or space can be anywhere, at any time, but includes group or team members and, as you might have guessed, a leader. The need for clear expectations is key to the effective community, and it is never more true than in an online environment where asynchronous communication is the norm and physical interaction is limited or non-existent. Increasingly we manage teams from a distance, outsource services to professionals across the country, and interact across video and voice chats on a daily basis. The effective leader understands this and leverages the tools and technology to maximize group and team performance.

Through interaction in groups and teams, we meet many of our basic human needs, including the need to feel included, and the need for love and appreciation.Shutz, W. (1966). The Interpersonal Underworld. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books, pp. 13–20. From the opening post, welcome letter, or virtual meeting, the need to perceive acknowledgement and belonging is present, and the degree to which we can reinforce these messages will contribute to higher levels of interaction, better engagement across the project, retention throughout the mission, and successful completion of the goal or task. Online communities can have a positive effect by reducing the group member’s feeling of isolation through extending leader-to-team member and team member-to-team member interaction. Fostering and developing a positive group sense of community is a challenge, but the effective leader recognizes it as an important, if not critical, element of success.

Given the diversity of our teams and groups, there are many ways to design and implement task-oriented communities. Across this diversity, communication and the importance of positive interactions in each group is common ground. The following are five “best practices” for developing an effective online community as part of a support and interaction system for your team or group:

  1. Clear expectations

    The plan is the central guiding document for your project. It outlines the project information, expectations, deadlines, and often how communication will occur in the group. Much like a syllabus guides a course, a plan of action, from a business plan to a marketing plan, can serve as an important map for group or team members. With key benchmarks, quality standards, and proactive words of caution on anticipated challenges, the plan of action can be an important resource that contributes to team success.

  2. Effective organization

    Organization may first bring to mind the tasks, roles, and job assignments and their respective directions but consider: Where do we interact? What are the resources available? When do we collaborate? All these questions should be clearly spelled out to help team members know when and where to communicate.

  3. Prompt and meaningful responses

    Effective leaders are prompt. They understand that when Germans are waking up, the Chinese are tucking their children into bed. They know when people will be available and juggle time zones and contact information with ease. Same day responses to team members is often the norm, and if you anticipate longer periods of time before responding, consider a brief email or text to that effect. The online community is fragile and requires a leader to help facilitate effective communication.

  4. A positive tone in interaction and feedback

    Constructive criticism will no doubt be a part of your communication with team members, but by demonstrating respect, offering praise as well as criticism, and by communicating in a positive tone, you’ll be contributing to a positive community. One simple rule of thumb is to offer two comments of praise for every one of criticism. Of course you may adapt your message for your own needs, but as we’ve discussed previously, trust is the foundation of the relationship and the student needs to perceive you are supportive of their success.

How Do I Build an Effective Online Team?

In order for people to perceive a sense of community or feel like they belong to a team, they need group socialization. Group socializationThe development of interpersonal relationships within a group context. is the development of interpersonal relationships within a group context. Group success is built on the foundation of the relationships that form as a part of group development. You can emphasize activities and environments that create a supportive group climate, paying attention to relationship messages as well as content messages. Palloff and PrattPalloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in Cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. recommend seven steps for building a successful team.

  • Clearly define the purpose of the community
  • Create a clear, distinct place for the group to gather
  • Promote effective leadership from within the community
  • Define norms and a clear code of conduct
  • Allow for a range of member roles
  • Allow for leadership and facilitating of subgroups
  • Allow members to resolve their own disputes, while adhering to class established norms

Palloff and PrattPalloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in Cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. caution that it is possible to develop a community that has strong social connections between the team members but where very little performance actually takes place. Here is where the leader plays a central role. The leader needs to be visibly present and actively engaged in the process, encouraging learners focus their energies on the social aspect to the detriment of the learning goals of the project and the community. Palloff and PrattPalloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in Cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. suggest:

  • Engaging team members with subject matter and related resources
  • Visibly accounting for attendance and participation
  • Working individually with team members who are struggling
  • Understanding the signs that indicate that a team member is in trouble
  • Building online communities that accommodate personal interaction

Palloff and PrattPalloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in Cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. further indicate that a leader can tell if the community is working when the following emerge:

  • Active interaction
  • Sharing of resources among team members rather than team member to leader
  • Collaborative learning evidenced by comments directed primarily team member to team member
  • Socially constructed meaning evidenced by agreement or questioning with the intent to achieve agreement on issues of meaning in order to achieve group goals or results
  • Expression of support and encouragement exchanged between team members as well as willingness to critically evaluate the work of others

It is not easy to create and manage a team online, but recognizing a sense of community as well as the signs of positive interaction and productivity will help contribute to team success.

In this section we discussed how to become a leader, from the election process, appointment, or emergence, and ways to develop our leadership skills. We discussed how leadership starts with the self, and self-discipline, and that group or team members will naturally turn to leader that can solve not only their own problems, but contribute to group member’s success. When team members see that a leader can help them get their job done right the first time, it only makes sense that they will be more likely to turn to them time and time again. Leadership is a dynamic process, and change is a constant. Developing yourself as a leader requires time and effort, and recognizing that team members want a sense of community, appreciate a proactive plan, and sometimes need reinforcement or recognition, can go a longs ways towards your goal.

Key Takeaway

Group members become leaders when they are elected to the role, they emerge into the role, or through appointment.


  1. Do you prefer electing a leader or observing who emerges? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each process of becoming a leader? Discuss your thoughts with classmates.
  2. Describe an appointed leader that you know or have known in the past. How did they manage their new role? Were they well-received (why or why not)? Write a 2–3 paragraph discussion of your experience with an appointed leader and share it with a classmate.
  3. Think of a leader you admire and respect. How did this individual become a leader—for example, by appointment, democratic selection, or emergence? How would you characterize this leader’s style—is the leader autocratic or laissez-faire; a technician or a coach?

8.4 Teamwork and Leadership

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define teamwork and explain how to overcome various challenges to group success.
  2. Describe the process of leader development.
  3. Describe several different leadership styles and their likely influence on followers.

Two important aspects of group communication, especially in the business environment, are teamwork and leadership. You will work in a team and at some point may be called on to lead. You may emerge to that role as the group recognizes your specific skill set in relation to the task, or you may be appointed to a position of responsibility for yourself and others. Your communication skills will be your foundation for success as a member, and as a leader. Listen and seek to understand both the task and your group members as you become involved with the new effort. Have confidence in yourself and inspire the trust of others. Know that leading and following are both integral aspects of effective teamwork.


Teamwork is a compound word, combining team and work. TeamsA form of group normally dedicated to production or problem-solving. are a form of group normally dedicated to production or problem-solving. That leaves us with the work. This is where our previous example on problem-solving can serve us well. Each member of the team has skills, talents, experience, and education. Each is expected to contribute. Work is the activity, and while it may be fun or engaging, it also requires effort and commitment, as there is a schedule for production with individual and group responsibilities. Each member must fulfill his or her own obligations for the team to succeed, and the team, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest member. In this context we don’t measure strength or weakness at the gym, but in terms of productivity.

Teams can often achieve higher levels of performance than individuals because of the combined energies and talents of the members. Collaboration can produce motivation and creativity that may not be present in single-contractor projects. Individuals also have a sense of belonging to the group, and the range of views and diversity can energize the process, helping address creative blocks and stalemates. By involving members of the team in decision-making, and calling up on each member’s area of contribution, teams can produce positive results.

Teamwork is not without its challenges. The work itself may prove a challenge as members juggle competing assignments and personal commitments. The work may also be compromised if team members are expected to conform, and pressured to go along with a procedure, plan, or product that they themselves have not developed. GroupthinkTendency to accept the group’s ideas and actions in spite of individual concerns., or the tendency to accept the group’s ideas and actions in spite of individual concerns, can also compromise the process and reduce efficiency. Personalities and competition can play a role in a team’s failure to produce.

We can recognize that people want to belong to a successful team, and celebrating incremental gain can focus the attention on the project and its goals. Members will be more willing to express thoughts and opinions, and follow through with actions, when they perceive that they are an important part of the team. By failing to include all of the team members, valuable insights may be lost in the rush to judgment or production. Making time for planning, and giving each member time to study, reflect, and contribute can allow them to gain valuable insights from each other, and may make them more likely to contribute information that challenges the status quo. Unconventional or “devil’s advocate” thinking may prove insightful and serve to challenge the process in a positive way, improving the production of the team. Respect for divergent views can encourage open discussion.

Thill and BoveeThill, J. V., & Bovee, C. L. (2002). Essentials of business communication. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. provide a valuable list to consider when setting up a team, which we have adapted here for our discussion:

  • Select team members wisely
  • Select a responsible leader
  • Promote cooperation
  • Clarify goals
  • Elicit commitment
  • Clarify responsibilities
  • Instill prompt action
  • Apply technology
  • Ensure technological compatibility
  • Provide prompt feedback

Group dynamics involve the interactions and processes of a team, and influence the degree to which members feel a part of the goal and mission. A team with a strong identity can prove to be a powerful force, but requires time and commitment. A team that exerts too much control over individual members can run the risk or reducing creative interactions and encourage tunnel vision. A team that exerts too little control, with attention to process and areas of specific responsibility, may not be productive. The balance between motivation and encouragement, and control and influence, is challenging as team members represent diverse viewpoints and approaches to the problem. A skilled business communicator creates a positive team by first selecting members based on their areas of skill and expertise, but attention to their style of communication is also warranted. Individuals that typically work alone, or tend to be introverted, may need additional encouragement to participate. Extroverts may need to be encouraged to listen to others and not dominate the conversation. Teamwork involves teams and work, and group dynamics play an integral role in their function and production.

Types of Leaders

We can see types of leaders in action and draw on common experience for examples. The heart surgeon does not involve everyone democratically, is typically appointed to the role through earned degrees and experience, and resembles a military sergeant more than a politician. The autocratic leaderSelf-directed leader who establishes norms and conduct for the group. is self-directed and often establishes norms and conduct for the group. In some settings we can see that this is quite advantageous, such as open-heart surgery or during a military exercise, but it does not apply equally to all leadership opportunities.

Contrasting the autocrat is the laissez-faire leaderIndividual who practices a “live and let live” style of leadership., or “live and let live” leader. In a professional setting, such as a university, professors may bristle at the thought of an autocratic leader telling them what to do. They have earned their role through time, effort, and experience and know their job. A wise laissez-faire leader recognizes this aspect of working with professionals and may choose to focus efforts on providing the professors with the tools they need to make a positive impact. Imagine that you are in the role of a television director, and you have a vision or idea of what the successful pilot program should look like. The script is set, the lighting correct, and the cameras are in the correct position. You may tell people what to do and where to stand, but you remember that your job is to facilitate the overall process. You work with talent, and creative people are interesting on camera. If you micromanage your actors, they may perform in ways that are not creative, and that will not draw audiences. If you let them run wild through improvisation, the program may not go well at all. Balancing the need for control with the need for space is the challenge of the laissez-faire leader.

Not all leaders are autocrats or laissez-faire leaders. Harris and SherblomHarris, T., & Sherblom, J. (1999). Small group and team communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. specifically note three leadership styles that characterize the modern business or organization, and reflect our modern economy. We are not born leaders but may become them if the context or environment requires our skill set. A leader-as-technicianOccurs when the leader has skills that others do not. role often occurs when we have skills that others do not. If you can fix the copy machine at the office, your leadership and ability to get it running again are prized and sought-after skills. You may instruct others on how to load the paper, or how to change the toner, and even though your pay grade may not reflect this leadership role, you are looked to by the group as a leader within that context. Technical skills, from Internet technology to facilities maintenance, may experience moments where their particular area of knowledge is required to solve a problem. Their leadership will be in demand.

The leader-as-conductorCentral role of bringing people together for a common goal. involves a central role of bringing people together for a common goal. In the common analogy, a conductor leads an orchestra and integrates the specialized skills, and sounds, of the various components the musical group comprises. In the same way, a leader who conducts may set a vision, create benchmarks, and creative collaborate with group as they interpret a set script. Whether it is a beautiful movement in music, or a group of teams that comes together to address a common challenge, the leader-as-conductor keeps the time and tempo of the group.

Coaches are often discussed in business-related books as models of leadership for good reason. A leader-as-coachIndividual serving as a teacher, motivator, and keeper of the goals of the group. combines many of the talents and skills we’ve discussed here, serving as a teacher, motivator, and keeper of the goals of the group. A coach may be autocratic at times, and give pointed direction without input from the group, and they may stand on the sidelines while the players do what they’ve been trained to do and make the points. The coach may look out for the group and defend it against bad calls, and may motivate players with words of encouragement. We can recognize some of the behaviors of coaches, but what specific traits have a positive influence on the group? Peters and AustinPeters, T., & Austin, N. (1985). A passion for excellence: the leadership difference. New York: Random House. identify five important traits that produce results:

  • Orientation and education
  • Nurturing and encouragement
  • Assessment and correction
  • Listening and counseling
  • Establishing group emphasis

Coaches are teachers, motivators, and keepers of the goals of the group. There are times when members of the team forget that there is no “I” in the word “team.” At such times coaches serve to redirect the attention and energy of the individuals to the overall goals of the group. They conduct the group with a sense of timing and tempo, and at times relax and let the members demonstrate their talents. Through their listening skills and counseling, they come to know each member as an individual, but keep the team focus for all to see. They set an example. Coaches, however, are human and by definition are not perfect. They can and do prefer some players over others, and can display less than professional sideline behavior when they don’t agree with the referee, but the style of leadership is worthy of your consideration in its multidisciplinary approach. Coaches use more than one style of leadership and adapt to the context and environment. A skilled business communicator will recognize that this approach has its merits

Key Takeaway

Teamwork allows individuals to share their talents and energy to accomplish goals, and an effective leader facilitates this teamwork process.


  1. Do you prefer working in a group or team environment, or working individually? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Discuss your thoughts with classmates.
  2. Imagine that you could choose anyone you wanted to be on a team with you. Who would you choose, and why? Write a 2–3 paragraph description and share it with a classmate.
  3. Think of a leader you admire and respect. What leadership traits to they display or possess? How would you characterize this leader’s style—is the leader autocratic or laissez-faire; a technician or a coach?

8.5 Diverse Forms of Leadership

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objectives

  1. Distinguish between laissez-faire, autocratic, and democratic leadership styles.
  2. Describe differences between transactional and transformational leadership.
  3. Identify examples and characteristics of matriarchal leadership.
  4. Identify differences between leadership styles associated with males and females.

President Harry Truman once said he didn’t want economists hedging by saying, “On the one hand” and then adding “but on the other hand.” Truman said: “Bring me a one-armed economist.”Godden, J. (2008, April 28). Send for a one-armed economist. Seattle Post Intelligencer. Retrieved from

Jean Godden

Leadership theory resembles economics in at least one respect. Despite the fact that leadership has been investigated intensively for decades, if not centuries, no one has come up with a definitive prescription for how to practice it in every situation. The major reasons for this failure are that every situation differs from every other situation, and every leader differs from every other leader. What is great leadership, then? It depends!

Gay and Donald LumsdenLumsden, G., & Lumsden, D. (2004). Communicating in groups and teams: Sharing leadership (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. described this situation succinctly: “This is one of those good-sense things. You can’t expect one approach to work in all situations.” Diverse people with diverse personalities in diverse situations call for diverse forms of leadership.

A “Goldilocks” Continuum of Leadership

Although it was perhaps simplistic even when it were proposed half a century ago, a continuum of three styles of leadership may seem at first glance to be logical. It’s soothing, isn’t it, to think that, like Goldilocks, we can consider and rule out possibilities that are “too this” and “too that” in favor of a choice that’s just right?

At one end of a leadership continuum proposed in the 1960s and 1970sWhite, R.K., & Lippett, R.O. (1960). Autocracy and democracy. New York: Harper & Row., Likert, R. (1967). The human organization: Its management and value. New York: McGraw-Hill. lies laissez-faire leadershipA “live and let live” style of leadership; a willingness to let people in a group behave as they wish., whose main feature is a willingness to let people in a group behave as they wish. If a group comprises skilled and competent members who willingly share responsibilities and are already motivated to work hard, this kind of leadership may be appropriate—or, at least, it may not cause harm to the group. Most individuals and groups, however, are apt to have difficulty maintaining focus and productivity under laissez-faire leadership.

At the other end of the continuum would be autocratic leadershipA style of leadership in which group members are strictly controlled, monitored, and commanded by the leader., also known as command and control management.Zak, M.W. (1994). “It’s like a prison in there”: Organizational fragmentation in a demographically diversified workplace. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 8, 281–298. An autocratic leader uses coercive power or the dispensation or withholding of rewards to control how the group operates. Some group members may appreciate, or at least accept, autocratic leadership because of the structure and definitiveness it provides. In fact, when autocratic leadership is first imposed on a group, it can increase short-term productivity.Lumsden, G., & Lumsden, D. (2004). Communicating in groups and teams: Sharing leadership (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. Later, however, aggressive behavior may develop under an autocratic leader, and turnover rates are likely to rise.

In the middle of the continuum, in the place that Goldilocks would presumably have considered to be just right, is democratic leadershipA style of leadership in which the leader distributes responsibility and shares power with group members.. Sometimes called “participative leadership,” this variety is characterized by distribution of responsibility among group members; empowerment of the members to determine their activities and express their opinions freely; and assistance with (but not domination of) the group’s decision-making. Under this kind of leadership, most or all of a group’s members are entrusted to perform important functions and may actually sometimes exchange the roles of leader and follower.Gastil, J. (1994). A definition and illustration of democratic leadership. Human Relations, 47, 953–975. Native-born Americans might consider democratic leadership to be the ideal kind, but it yields benefits in some situations more than in others. It is most advantageous when a group is first forming, and other factors that contribute to its success are breadth of talent and ideas among group members and lack of clarity about the group’s goals.

Transactional and Transformational Leadership

A new movement in leadership theory, known at the time as “new leadership,” first emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. Among other things, its adherents drew a distinction between transactional leadershipA behaviorist approach to motivating group members in which leaders exchange rewards for performance. and transformational leadership. BrymanBryman, A. (1992). Charisma and leadership in organizations. London: Sage. wrote that transactional leaders exchange rewards for performance. In other words, they employ what we will describe in our next chapter as a behaviorist approach to motivating group members.

Transformational leaders, by contrast, provide group members with a vision to which they can all aspire. They also work to develop a team spirit so that it becomes possible to achieve that vision.

Den Hartog, Van Muijen, & KopmanDen Hartog, D.N., Van Muijen, J.J., & Kopman, P.L. (1997). Transactional versus transformational leadership: An analysis of the MLQ (Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire). Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 19–35. distinguished clearly between these two kinds of leaders. They held that transactional leaders motivate group members to perform as expected, whereas transformational leaders inspire followers to achieve more than what is expected. NanusNanus, D. (1992). Visionary leadership: Creating a compelling sense of direction for your organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. wrote that transformational leaders accomplish these tasks by instilling pride and generating respect and trust; by communicating high expectations and expressing important goals in straightforward language; by promoting rational, careful problem-solving; and by devoting personal attention to group members.

Matriarchal Leadership

We’ve discussed in other parts of this book how gender can affect interactions in small groups. We haven’t touched yet, however, on the implications of matriarchal leadershipLeadership in which women exercise primary influence instead of men on how whole societies and the groups within them function.—leadership in which women exercise primary influence instead of men—on how whole societies and the groups within them function. Examples of such leadership from North America, Africa, and Europe will help us understand some of those implications.

In Native American society, women have long occupied major leadership roles. Anthony DayDay, A. (2004, Jan 16). Book review: The worlds of Pocahontas; Pocahontas: Medicine woman, spy, entrepreneur, diplomat; Paula Gunn Allen; Harper San Francisco. Los Angeles Times, pp. 27–E.27. Retrieved from noted that a book by Paula Gunn Allen made this point with reference to three Native American women known today for the guidance and support they provided to men exploring North America: Pocahontas, who saved John Smith in early Virginia and later wed Captain John Rolfe; Malinche, Hernán Cortés’s lover and the mother of his son; and Sacagawea, without whose help the Lewis and Clark expedition might have ended in disaster. According to Allen, each of these women was “doing the traditional work of highborn Native American women in a matriarchal society.” Furthermore, each occupied a leadership position among her own people which made it possible for her to enact change, bridge worlds, and bring about harmony among diverse groups.

Two other authoritiesTarrell Awe, A. P., & Michael, T. G. (2005). Beloved women: Nurturing the sacred fire of leadership from an American Indian perspective. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 83(3), 284–291. Retrieved from have had this to say about leadership in today’s Native American tribal groups: “American Indian governance is filled not with the romantic notion of male ‘chiefs’ … but with tribal councils or committees consisting of multiple leaders (male and female) holding positions of leadership, most often with a group of women holding the ultimate power for decisions that affect the entire tribe.” These same writers also quoted a Mohawk Woman, Lorraine Canoe, As cited in McFadden, S. (Ed.). (1994). The little book of Native American wisdom. Rockport, MA: Element. as saying, “We are a matriarchal society. Even our language honors the women. It is a female language. When we dance, the men dance on the outside of the circle. The inside of the circle is to honor the women.”

Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, who in 2005 became the first elected female head of state in Africa and was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with two other Third World women, noted that “at least 250 prominent African women leaders have made the ‘history books’ since Western historians took an interest in Africa, let alone those that passed unrecorded but live on in folk history.”Johnson-Sirleaf, E. (2010) Africa’s women have led in the past, and will lead in the future. New African, 78–79. Retrieved from According to Sirleaf-Johnson, these leaders have included chiefs, queens, ministers, prime ministers, and others. Liberia, where Sirleaf-Johnson is president, has six female cabinet ministers who hold strategic positions, including justice, foreign affairs, agriculture, and commerce.

In contemporary Europe, women occupy far fewer upper-level leadership positions in business than do men, but their numbers are greater in family-run corporations than in listed companies. According to Richard Milne,Milne, R. (2008, October 15). A matriarchal leadership. FT.Com. Retrieved from women in European family-held businesses tend to be guided by four distinctive drives: a focus on long-term rather than short-term goals; a sense of empathy for co-workers, including subordinates; a desire to emulate their own mothers’ style of organizing a family; and a powerful commitment to support the business in times of challenge.

Asia covers a vast area encompassing many diverse cultures and sociological features. It is also a fast-changing region of the world, technologically, economically, and culturally. Recent writings indicate, however, that matriarchal leadership has existed there for centuries in at least parts of China and is established also as part of Philippine culture.

Among the approximately 50,000 members of the Mosuo ethnic group in remote southern China, until as recently as 15 years ago the women made all major decisions and held the purse strings. Property and names still pass from mothers to daughters in the area’s agrarian villages. One man interviewed by the author of an article about the areaFarley, M. (1998, Dec 26). Saturday journal; In Lugu Lake, marriage is a ticklish affair; females call the shots as men hand over matters of life and love in remote Chinese matriarchal society. Los Angeles Times, pp. 1–1. Retrieved from said that in his small business transactions with outside visitors “I hand the money over to my wife’s mother. She gives me enough to buy cigarettes and a drink, and I do what she says.” The headman of another village informed the author that he made decisions outside the village but not inside. “If I want to do something,” he said, “I must get permission from my mother.”

A study of women in positions of business leadership in the Philippines revealed several features related to matriarchy.Roffey, B. (2002). Beyond culture-centric and gendered models of management: Perspectives on Filipina business leadership. Women in Management Review, 17(7), 352–363. Retrieved from First, the businesses examined in the study displayed greater interconnectedness with the women’s families than is usually the case in Western male-led firms. Employees were in many instances treated as family members, even to the extent of being provided with food and accommodation. Second, the values which the women associated with effective leadership included several that are generally linked to women’s perceived strengths: diplomacy, tact, “grace,” “charm”, “humility,” and “integrity.”

Male vs. Female Leadership

The “nature versus nurtureThe question of how much of human behavior is caused by biological factors and how much of it results from features of the environment.” debate continues to rage in the social sciences. Controversy still exists over how much of human behavior is caused by biology and how much of it results from social conditioning. The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama,Fukuyama, F. (1998). Women and the evolution of world politics. Foreign Affairs, 77(5), 24–40. Retrieved from however, has forcefully contended that “virtually all reputable evolutionary biologists today think there are profound differences between the sexes that are genetically rather than culturally rooted, and that these differences extend beyond the body into the realm of the mind.”

What might some of these differences be when it comes to leadership, and how persistent might they be? Fukuyama answered that “male tendencies to band together for competitive purposes, seek to dominate status hierarchies, and act out aggressive fantasies toward one another can be rechanneled but never eliminated.” According to him, boys have been shown in hundreds of studies to be more aggressive, both verbally and physically, in their dreams, words, and actions than girls.

With respect to international relations, Fukuyama wrote that women are less likely than men to see force as a legitimate tool for resolving conflicts. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson added that “it is the skills of cooperation and collaboration that count in a new age of interconnectedness, qualities in which women excel.”Johnson-Sirleaf, E. (2010, Africa’s women have led in the past, and will lead in the future. New African, 78–79. Retrieved from And in the Philippine businesses studied by Roffey, the women leaders were more frequently found to demonstrate nurturance and flexible risk-taking than traits often ascribed to male leaders, such as firmness and single-mindedness.

Key Takeaway

Leadership can take many forms, including nontraditional ones such as matriarchal leadership, and the results of various forms may differ substantially.


  1. Think of the last several movies you’ve watched. Who took leadership in their stories, and how effectively? Assuming that the leadership was not matriarchal, how do you think the films would have come across differently if the leadership had featured women rather than men? How do you think men and women in the audience might have reacted differently?
  2. If all their skills and authority were the same, and you were forced to choose between a woman and a man as the leader of a group you were part of, what choice would you make? Would it depend on what kind of group? If so, why? Explain your answers to a classmate.
  3. Google “women heads of state” and determine how many countries in the world are currently led by women. Would you expect any common threads among the countries, or among their leaders? Why or why not?

8.6 Summary

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

In this chapter we have discussed what leadership is, examining the amazing range of behaviors, actions and traits associated with leadership across contexts and cultures. We also explored how one becomes a leader, through a democratic election, by appointment, or through a process of emerging as a leader to meet a need, address an issue, or through experience or skill. When people turn to you to help them solve their problems it is a sure sign you’ve become, in some respect, a leader. We explored a range of theories associated with leadership, from the idea that there are born leaders with universal traits, to the recognition that the situation or context can make a significant impact. We also discussed transformative leadership, where the leader, through energy and enthusiasm, motivates the group or team to accomplish their goals with the conclusion: “We did it!” Leadership is an important part of teams and groups, and learning to listen, to recognize skills and talents, and how to facilitate a positive team environment can make all the difference. Leaders are an important part of groups, and they use their effective communication skills to get the job done.

Chapter Review Questions

  1. Interpretive Question

    1. Our world is changing rapidly in terms of technology, economics, political forces, and other features. Which of these changes, if any, do you feel may call upon outstanding leaders to behave differently than they might have in the past? What do you expect those differences to be?
  2. Application Question

    1. In a small group of students, identify a task or situation which requires leadership. Now have half the group think of a male leader whom they admire and the other half identify such a female leaders. Have each half of the group write a paragraph or two describing the key behaviors it feels the leader would be likely to exhibit under the circumstances you’ve set forth. Compare the paragraphs and discuss whether and to what degree the gender of the leader might account for differences between the descriptions.

Additional Resources

Read about groups and teams on the business website 1000 Ventures.

Learn more about Tuckman’s Linear Model.

Learn more about Dewey’s sequence of group problem solving on this site from Manatee Community College in Florida.

Read a hands-on article about how to conduct productive meetings.

Visit this WikiHow site to learn how to use VOIP.

Watch a YouTube video on cloud computing.

Read about groups and teams, and contribute to a wiki about them, on Wikibooks.

How did Twitter get started? Find out.

Take a (nonscientific) quiz to identify your leadership style.

A review of leadership qualities in a self-assessment format.

Leadership Self-Assessment Activity.

The Trusted Leader Self-Assessment.

Personal Reflection, Hill Consulting Group Leadership Self-Assessment.

The Leadership Motivation Assessment from MindTools.

Leadership Self-Assessment Tool from the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.

Leadership Self-Assessment, Online Form and Scoring, from McGraw-Hill.

WikiBooks: Managing Groups and Teams/Effective Team Leadership.

Successful Small Team Leadership: Manage the Group, Not the Individuals.

TealTrust, What makes a good team leader? 10 Ways to Become a Better Leader.

12 Rules for Team Leadership (Transformative Model).

Leadership Exercises and Tips from the University of Oregon.

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.