What is Group Leadership?

Malcolm Tatum

Group leadership is the process of providing focus and direction to a specific group of people. Leadership of this type often involves facilitating and guiding the actions of group participants as well as accepting responsibility for the outcome of the group’s efforts. There are a number of different approaches to group leadership, with varying styles used in different settings.

Multiple people share responsibility for the actions of a group in the democratic style of group leadership.
Multiple people share responsibility for the actions of a group in the democratic style of group leadership.

One approach to group leadership is known as autocratic. This strategy involves the use of a central process for making decisions on policies and procedures. Often, corporate leadership of this type vests this responsibility in a core group of executives or managers, holding them accountable for the decisions they make. While employees are usually free to present recommendations to their supervisors or managers, they do not actively participate in the decision-making process themselves. Instead, they carry out the directives issued by the group leader.

Group leadership involves guiding and facilitating the actions of group participants.
Group leadership involves guiding and facilitating the actions of group participants.

A different approach to group leadership is known as the democratic style. This model is often used in situations where multiple people share responsibility for the actions of the group. While there is still a key decision-maker, that person acts as a facilitator, actively soliciting the thoughts and ideas of the group members. However, once the decision has been made, all group members are expected to abide by the outcome, including the group leader.

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Autocratic corporate leadership vests responsibility in a core group of executives or managers.
Autocratic corporate leadership vests responsibility in a core group of executives or managers.

The laissez-faire style is another approach to group leadership. Sometimes referred to as hands-off method, this type of approach essentially provides the group with the resources needed to accomplish assigned tasks, then steps out of the way and allow the group members to complete the necessary tasks with little to no direct involvement by the group leader. With this approach, the group leader remains available to answer questions, to motivate, and to assist when and as desired by the group members, but otherwise remains somewhat detached from the process.

One approach to group leadership that some say is not true leadership at all is known as the abdacratic style of leadership. With this model, the designated group leader has no authority over the group members at all. While promoting a great deal of creativity that can lead to new innovations, this group leadership model has the most potential for failing to perform essential tasks, as there is no one to provide direction on any level for the actions pursued by the group.

Many leadership training courses will cover all four of these styles in some manner, often identifying scenarios where each approach is likely to benefit the group. As part of the team building effort, the democratic approach is helpful when there is a need to draw on the talents and expertise of everyone in the group, while the autocratic approach is highly effective when tough decisions must be made quickly. Many leadership coaching and development seminars and ongoing group leadership training courses stress that each of these approaches may be incorporated into the dynamics of a single group, and used when and as most appropriate. For this reason, it is often recommended that true group leaders must be able to accurately assess the needs and the abilities of the group, in order to decide which approach is the most beneficial at any given point in time.

Some groups are highly organized with identified leadership, while others are much more free flowing.
Some groups are highly organized with identified leadership, while others are much more free flowing.

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Discussion Comments

RoyalSpyder

@Chmander – I know your question is rhetorical, but I feel like I should answer anyway. Maybe the point of the abdacratic style is to emphasize the importance of leadership.

In other words, maybe it’s supposed to show how when there’s no direction in a group, things fall apart. That’s just my take on it. Also, I do agree with you that abdacratic style isn’t a form of leadership.

Chmander

In my opinion, all leadership falls under the same category. I know that there are different approaches, but whether it’s democratic or autocratic, you’re still responsible for others, right?

Also, just as the article states, I don’t feel that the abdacratic style is even a form of leadership. If one isn’t in charge of their group, then who are they leading exactly?

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