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Group Leadership

Group Leadership

Author: Zach Lamb

Differentiate between the styles of group leadership.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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Hello. Welcome to sociological studies. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to study society. In today's lesson, we're going to talk about group leadership. We're going to describe two forms of group leadership, instrumental leadership and expressive leadership. And then we're going to discuss the ways groups make decisions together, the three styles of decision making within groups.

So right away let's just talk about instrumental and expressive leadership. Well instrumental leadership is more concerned with accomplishing goals quickly and efficiently. It's a form of group leadership that is focused on completing tasks and accomplishing the goals of a group.

Think of your boss at work as an example of an instrumental leader, or an example of an instrumental form of leadership. He's going to go around to delegate tasks and strategize, how are we going to get this goal accomplished quickly and efficiently and cost-effectively for the company. He's not really going to be all that concerned about making everyone happy, probably not. Ideally everyone will be happy, of course, but you boss's bottom line is getting that task or accomplishing that goal. So when that is the focus, instrumental leadership. We call that instrumental leadership.

The other kind of leadership is expressive, which stands in contrast to instrumental leadership a bit because expressive leaders are focused on solving group conflicts and maintaining harmony and stability and order within the group. It's a little more cushy. It's a little more attuned to emotions and everyone involved in the group. Are we happy? Do we have a good group dynamic? Is everyone satisfied? We don't want conflicts. So when we have a harmonious working group, then we can accomplish our goals that way. So this is what an expressive leader does, and you can think of your family as an example of expressive leadership. The head of your family is going to be more concerned with overall harmony and cohesion in the family. So this is expressive leadership.

Of course it's important to note that these are not either-or leadership styles. Both instrumental and expressive leadership styles can be present in the family and in the workplace at the same time. In fact, any small group needs elements of both instrumental and expressive leadership in order to run effectively. Your boss, for instance, could be more concerned with being buddy-buddy with employees rather than getting things done instrumentally. And the family needs members to be instrumental, get things done and pay the bills, as well as members who are more geared towards expressive emotional support and the focus on a harmonious functioning of the family as a unit.

So I've given you these examples as ideal types to help make this conceptually clear and this conceptually clear, but know that in reality small groups are characterized by both instrumental and expressive leadership. So keep that in mind going forward in the lesson.

So these are the two ways that sociologists have conceptualized group dynamics and group leadership. Leaders can be more goal oriented, instrumental leadership, or they can be more focused on cohesion, harmony, happiness, and stability within the group, expressive leadership. But how do groups make decisions? What kind of decision making styles do they have? What kind of decision making processes do they use? Sociologists have identified three decision making styles that groups display, authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. We'll discuss those three now.

In authoritarian leadership, the leader takes charge of the situation and demands conformity among members of the group. So you can think again of your boss. You typically don't have a lot of say in what part you will play in the group in accomplishing the tasks of your company or wherever you work. And this is because the workplace group has instrumental goals, and the boss takes an authoritarian position to accomplish those goals. Authoritarian leadership is named after this idea of authoritarianism, where there's authority on top and just sends orders down below. Everyone must obey the authorities. So this is an example of authoritarian leadership.

Obviously authoritarian leadership isn't great for making friends and making everybody feel great and lovey dovey about the situation and nice. But authoritarian leadership can be appreciated and valued in times of stress and confusion, and somebody will take charge and delegate tasks. So this is when authoritarian leadership is valuable. And we most often see it with respect to instrumental goals and in the workplace.

Next let's discuss democratic leadership. And as its name suggests, democratic leadership involves everyone when we're making decisions. So everyone's input then is valuable. Everyone gets to discuss the strategy for accomplishing the goals within the group, and it's not just somebody delegating tasks. It's everybody collectively discussing the strategies of the group and coming up with the best way to achieve the goal.

So again think of your family here. There's a give and take in deciding how the family is going to spend a Saturday afternoon. You have a goal as a family of doing something together on a Saturday, and it's likely that that decision will be made democratically, discussing the strategy within the family. So this is democratic leadership.

Of course workplaces too can be democratic. And often in the 21st century we see workplaces taking this form. Some of them are progressive workplaces designed to eliminate authoritarian hierarchy. And we see this most often in creative professions such as advertising where everyone is collaborating, coming up with a strategy for the client.

The third kind of leadership is similar to democratic in that there's no strong leader, and we call that laissez-faire. Laissez-faire. It's a French saying, literally meaning, let do, leave alone. It's a hands-off approach where the group functions more or less on its own. The leader, if present, does not take a domineering rule, and the group is left to function on its own.

And a good example of a laissez-faire group and a group characterized by laissez-faire leadership is your friend group. When you're sitting around with your friends it's pretty equal. Ideally you don't have an authoritarian friend group. I hope not. So it's like, well what are we going to do tonight? Well everyone is just sitting around. You might do this, you might do that. You might not do anything after all because nobody really takes charge. So stereotypically then laissez-faire leadership is the least effective way to accomplish goals because there's less organization then authoritarian or democratic leadership.

Well I hope you enjoyed this discussion of leadership. We provided a descriptive overview of forms of leadership in organizations. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Authoritarian Leadership

Leadership that is take-charge and demands conformity; typically effective at accomplishing group goals.

Democratic Leadership

Leadership that includes all group members in the decision making process.

Expressive Leadership

A form of group leadership that is focused on solving group conflicts and maintaining group cohesion and harmony.

Instrumental Leadership

A form of group leadership that is focused on completing tasks and accomplishing the goals of the group.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Leadership that lets the group run itself; typically least effective in accomplishing group goals.