Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Leadership Effectiveness and Personality Characteristics of Group Members

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Leadership Effectiveness and Personality Characteristics of Group Members

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Perceptions of leadership appear to be changing. Research has shown a shift in emphasis in regard to the factors influencing leadership effectiveness in a group. Whereas early scholars focused on leaders personality characteristics as key to leadership effectiveness in group situations, today, there has been a turning toward a concern for group members' characteristics and a parallel concern for the ensuing influence on leadership behavior. The old belief that only the leader has the inherent ability to make things happen has been found wanting. Emphasis is fast shifting away from the idea that leadership effectiveness is unilaterally influenced by the leader's personality characteristics toward the notion that leadership effectiveness is bilaterally influenced by the dynamics of both the leader and the group members' personality characteristics. This paper presents some findings of research on leadership to support the critical influence of group members' characteristics on leadership effectiveness. Implications are noted for leaders, trainers, and researchers.

Leadership is no longer regarded a one-person affair. In any group, the influence of the personality characteristics of group members on leadership effectiveness cannot be overemphasized. It would be difficult to imagine a world of leadership without followership. Leadership obviously implies followership. Leaders cannot do it alone. As claimed in the literature, it takes both the leader and the group members to get things done (Kouzes & Posner, 1987; Rost, 1991; Clark & Clark, 1994). Leaders have been unsuccessful because of their failure to harness the strengths of their group.

Early studies of leadership focused primarily on leadership traits and generally assumed that only the leader's personal attributes were instrumental to group effectiveness. This assumption is not only inaccurate but antithetical to successful group efforts. Put another way, if in a group situation, the metaphor "a tree cannot make a forest" makes sense, then the "one-person leadership" or "single leadership" ideology (Gibb, 1969; Burns, 1978; Lippitt, 1982; Bolman & Deal, 1991)is a contradiction in terms (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993). Although, a leader's personality characteristics undoubtedly influence leadership effectiveness, attributing a leader's success, or lack of, strictly to the leader's personality characteristics is an oversimplification, since other factors including members' personality characteristics are also always at work.

Recent studies have shown that the personality characteristics of group members (i.e., followers) are indeed fundamental to leadership effectiveness. According to Moore (1976), "Leaders cannot lead without followers. In any group task situation, followers are vital" (p. 203). As individuals, their personality characteristics have bearing on the effectiveness of the group. Lippitt (1982) posited that group performance depends as much upon the behavior and contributions of each member as it does on the skill of the leader. As indicated by Prawl, Medlin, and Gross (1984), "... At least four elements are required for leadership to exist: (1) a group of people, (2) a leader or leaders, (3) a problem and (4) a possible solution to the problem" (p. 84). Of the four elements mentioned, only two are active--a group of people, and a leader-while the remaining two elements are passive. Through concerted efforts, it takes these two active elements to mobilize the two passive elements. This presupposes the fact that leadership effectiveness in a group is a collective responsibility of both the leader and the led.

In reviewing literature on various early leadership studies (Tead, 1929, 1935; Bird, 1940; Barnard, 1948; Sashkin & Lassey, 1983), the question arises as to the influence of the personality characteristics of group members on leadership effectiveness. Many leadership studies have been concerned with the relationship between the personality characteristics of the leader and leadership effectiveness. …

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