Interpersonal Group Dynamics
Leadership Lessons Learned in Interpersonal Group Dynamics Leadership Lessons Learned in Interpersonal Group Dynamics When I first started Interpersonal Group Dynamics I had no idea what to expect to learn for the next six weeks. It was merely a class I needed to work towards my degree in Strategic Leadership. Even though I’ve had plenty of leadership training in the Air Force (AF), this course helped reinforce some of what I should have already been practicing. To be an effective leader you need to be able to think critically, communicate openly and be a leader that people believe in, not just a figure head with leader as a title.
Critical Thinking An effective leader doesn’t make snap decisions based on gut instinct alone. It takes years of training and observation to learn the proper way to lead people. In the AF, as a young Airman you are taught to follow the rules and do whatever you are told. As you grow in your career you take notice of good leaders and bad leaders. The good one’s always stand out because of their ability to think critically in any given situation. Like Kepner & Tregoe (1992), good leaders identify the root cause of a problem and identify the action steps, sometimes needing to make those decisions in very little time.
Having this ability could mean the difference between life and death in the military. Brainstorming (Osborn, 1953) with subordinates is another way an effective leader can arrive at a solution to a problem. Listening to others ideas might help the leader find a solution he might never thought of on his own. It doesn’t show a sign of weakness or inability; it shows his concern for what his subordinates think about the given situation and gives them some stock in the outcome. By doing this he will also open up the lines of communication that might not have otherwise been there. Communication
If my commander doesn’t clearly state that he wants me to go straight over a hill to save time, I might want to go around the hill because it will take less energy. Unfortunately, the time I wasted going around could mean the difference between someone getting the ammunition they need or being overrun by the enemy. If he had told me why I needed to go over the hill instead of around, I probably wouldn’t have been as concerned about saving my energy. I know that is an extreme case, but it can happen without clearly stated objectives. Before taking this class, I would say that there was a definite miscommunication.
Now, I will never forget that this can also be described as bypassing (Haney, 1992). The AF is an authority-base group and is highly structured. As the reading pointed out, it is a group environment that is thought of as being traditional (Tubbs, 2009). Having this authority based group helps us to achieve what we all swore to when we took our oath…. ”to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. However, having a leader that doesn’t clearly communicate his intended meaning could be disastrous, like I stated at the beginning of this paragraph.
Not only does a leader need to be able to clearly state their communication verbally, their body language needs to reinforce what they are saying. Non-verbal communication is essential as well. If my commander tells me he believes in my ability to perform a duty, but looks at the ground or off into the distance while talking to me, how am I to believe he really has faith in me? Facial expression and eye contact are probably the two most important types of visual cues (Tubbs, 2009). Having the abilities to think critically and communicate clearly are key leadership skills necessary to lead effectively.
Leadership Once you have honed your ability to think critically and communicate clearly, you have taken two of the steps to becoming an effective leader. I mentioned during class that in the AF, a person of rank has an inherent right to expert power (Tubbs, 2009). However this power can quickly go by the wayside if you abuse it. Effective leaders know how to use their expertise to bring out the best in their subordinates. Using a democratic style of leadership represents an attempt to find a reasonable compromise between the authoritarian and laissez-faire styles of leadership (Tubbs, 2009).
Yes, in the AF we need to be authoritarian at times, but being democratic will help your subordinates learn from your expertise while they contribute as well. Using the laissez-fair approach will more than likely get someone hurt or result in not accomplishing the mission. The most effective groups in the AF seem to have Superleaders (Sims and Manz, 2001), that is; a person who gets a lot of other people involved. Throughout my 23 years in the AF, the leaders I remember the most are the ones that seek other people’s opinions before making a final decision.
As I’ve stated previously, they make sure everyone feels like they are contributing. They make you want to follow them, without even trying. Conclusion To be an effective leader, I need to take the three main points of this paper and apply them to my everyday life in the AF. Sometimes I can be close-minded and make snap decisions without weighing the consequences or listening to my subordinates. I get so wrapped up in what I’m trying to accomplish that I forget to ask for input from those working for me and remember that they to have a stake in what we are trying to get done.
This class has reminded me of some of the things I was taught in other leadership course, but forgot to put into practice. It has reminded me that to be an effective leader, and someone people will want to follow, I need to think critically; communicate openly and clearly; and use the correct style of leadership when making decisions. To be honest……. it has reminded me to be humble. References Haney, William V. 1992. Communication and organizational behavior, 6th ed. Home-wood, IL: Irwin. Kepner, Charles H. , and Benjamin B. Tregoe. 1992.
The rational manager: A systematic approach to problem solving and decision making. New York: McGraw-Hill. O’Hair, Dan, Gustav W. Friedrich, and Lynda Dixon Shaver. 2005. Strategic communication in business and the professions, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Osborn, Alex. 1953. Applied imagination: Principles and procedures of creative thinking. New York: Scribner Sims, Henry P. , Jr. , and Charles C. Manz. 1996. Company of heroes. New York: Wiley. Tubbs, Stewart L. 2009. A systems approach to small group interaction. New York: McGraw-Hill.