Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

The Relationship between Self-Monitoring and Leadership in Student Project Groups

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

The Relationship between Self-Monitoring and Leadership in Student Project Groups

Article excerpt

As teamwork becomes prevalent in today's organizations (Ancona, 1990; Bettenhausen, 1991; Gallucci, 1985), instructors from a variety of disciplines increasingly incorporate collaborative learning experiences and group projects in many of their classes. Through these experiences, participants gain an awareness of the characteristics and skills required of group members and leaders and have an opportunity to practice the interpersonal and teamwork skills that are necessary for professionals in almost any field. "Experience with groups is particularly relevant for students who aspire to become managers in organizations" (Freeman, 1996, p. 266) and should be part of any business curriculum (Forman, 1986). Glaser, Guilar, and Piland (1992) agree that the ability to work in teams is a crucial job skill and add that these skills don't develop naturally when people are placed in teams, but must be developed. Freeman (1996) claims that exposure to group projects and assignments provides a vehicle by which students learn to compare and defend their own views with opinions or approaches espoused by others. Such experiences may prepare individuals to work effectively in a diverse workforce (Schreiber, 1996).

Bosley (1995) notes that methods of managing organizational workers and students are becoming more similar. Professors are changing classroom processes by focusing more on students learning together and less on the professor disseminating knowledge. This seems to be true in business communication classrooms. Several recent articles in business communication journals (Scheffler, 1992; Smith, 1992; Wallace, 1994; Winter & Neal, 1995) report on classroom collaborative projects.

One of the results of today's emphasis on teamwork has been an increased amount of research attention focused on team leadership. Effective leadership has been found to play an important role in the success of organizational teams (Hirokawa & Keyton, 1995; Kolb, 1996; Larson & LaFasto, 1989). Even in groups without official leaders, the process of leadership is still much the same (Seers, Petty, & Cashman, 1995). Unofficial leaders emerge and perform many of the same functions as traditional leaders. In emergent leadership, contrasted to officially designated leadership, the perception of leadership is key. Individuals only serve as leaders for as long as others see them in that role.

Individuals whom others in the group come to view as leaders exert significant influence over the other members (Schneier & Goktepe, 1983). Leaders emerge when group members reach a consensus that "one (or more) individual(s) could serve the group more usefully in attaining group goals than the other members" (Bass, 1981, p. 13). Some factors that have been identified as being related to leader emergence include task-related behavior (Anderson & Blanchard, 1982), frequency of talk (Fisher, 1985), performance self-esteem (Andrews, 1984), gender (Kent & Moss, 1994), interpersonal attraction (Goktepe & Schneier, 1989) and self-monitoring (Ellis & Cronshaw, 1992; Kent & Moss, 1990; Zaccaro, Foti, & Kenny, 1991).

Self-monitoring, the focus of the two studies reported in this article, is particularly relevant for business communication scholars and instructors. Since self-monitoring often aims at the creation of favorable impressions and remaining in good stead with others, audience analysis and adaptation of behaviors to suit that audience is a primary component. While an audience is generally viewed as those who read a document or listen to a presentation, audience can also be viewed as group members who determine whether or not a person's behavior is appropriate to fulfill a given role, such as group leader. People often tailor their self-presentations to the social goals they hope to achieve (Leary, Robertson, Barnes, & Miller, 1986). It seems reasonable to expect that high self-monitors might exhibit behaviors that others - in this case, other members of a group - take as evidence of leadership. …

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