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The Benefits of Group Centered Leadership

By Jim Handy, Minneapolis Business Mentors.

Group-centered leadership represents a significant shift from individual-centered leadership. Leaders/facilitators must begin to think on a third plane - the dynamics of the group in addition to the performance of individuals and the accomplishment of the task. Facilitators need to be committed to the group-centered approach and to appreciate that developing their competence as a group-centered leader takes a considerable time and effort.

A leader may be uncomfortable with the chaotic character that can develop in a group - discussion is not always a logical progression of ideas; people disagree with one another or cannot reach a decision. The leader may not like the "out of control" feeling that such groups can provoke. There can be a feeling of “flying without a net.” The leader must, however, resist the temptation to gain control by taking leadership from the group and control the content with information presentations, agendas that are too tight, brief Q&As or discussions, etc.

At its worst a group centered leadership group can be a difficult experience; while productive discussion and group moods do fluctuate, with an effective group leader such episodes can be the exception rather than the norm.

At its best a good group can be a very effective experience - full of energy, creativity and good social support. The benefits group centered leadership of an effective are significant:

  • Members of the group develop a sense of collective responsibility and overcome their dependence on the leader.

  • Collaboration and inter-dependence become the norm for group behavior.

  • Group members contribute their special knowledge readily to the decision-making process.

  • There is synergy between members as they develop insight and solutions.

  • Members develop respect for each other and listen carefully to each other’s’ contributions.

Facilitators need to prepare themselves at a range of levels if they are to develop their capacity for group-centered leadership. They need to learn about the processes which give rise to destructiveness in groups and the conditions for effective groups. They need to be ready for the emotional buffeting that groups can sometimes deliver. They need skills for fostering the group. Undoubtedly the most important developmental experience for a leader is to have been part of an effective group so that this experience is available as a vision of what can be possible.

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