Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Behavioral Roles Approach to Assessing and Improving the Team Leadership Capabilities of Managers

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Behavioral Roles Approach to Assessing and Improving the Team Leadership Capabilities of Managers

Article excerpt

Success in today's globally competitive marketplace requires that managers have the ability to effectively lead teams. While some individuals appear to have an innate, almost effortless capability to lead teams, most managers benefit from systematic efforts to assess and improve their performance in this critical area. Research on small group interaction and leadership behavior in teams is used to identify a set of task, social, and dysfunctional behavioral roles that are critical to team leader success. The widely used, well-researched leaderless group discussion (LGD) exercise is proposed as a potentially useful tool to measure team leadership role behaviors. A structured protocol is introduced, employing the LGD to assess and improve team leadership capabilities in individuals. Examples of protocol use in business and academia are discussed. Finally, several directions for future research are considered.

Introduction

The widespread utilization of teams in U.S. business continues unabated (Thompson, 2008). Paralleling this strong organizational interest, a large body of research has accumulated on teams and the critical leadership behaviors necessary for success (Burke, Stagi, Klein, Goodwin, Salas, & Halpin, 2006).

Findings from this empirical base, along with research in employee selection methodology, allow one to address important practical challenges that businesses face in trying to maximize overall team performance. These challenges include: (1) specifically identifying, defining, and measuring essential team leadership behaviors and (2) assessing, selecting, and developing effective team leaders.

This paper was written to respond to the above challenges and provide research-based guidance to practitioners, with two explicit objectives. First, a rigorous protocol to measure and improve critical team leadership capabilities in individuals will be introduced and described. Second applications of the protocol will be discussed in both business (training and selection/promotion) and academic (student learning) environments.

Group Roles and Team Leadership

The systematic study of behavioral roles in groups and their impact on overall performance began with the social psychological research of Benne and Sheats (1948) and Bales (1950;a,b). In their seminal article entitled, "Functional Roles of Group Members", Benne and Sheats described two major types of group roles: task-management and interpersonal. Included as task-management roles were such activities as: (1) initiating-suggesting new ideas or goals, (2) information seeking-asking relevant questions, and (3) orienting-keeping the group on-track.

Among the interpersonal roles identified as important were: (1) encouraging- giving positive feedback to others, (2) harmonizing- mediating or negotiating conflicts between group members, and (3) gatekeeping- facilitating participation by all group members.

Bales (1950; a, b) also conceptualized group interaction as consisting of two basic categories of behavioral roles- task and social-emotional. Task roles encompassed those behaviors directly related to accomplishing the mission or purpose of group (for example: giving suggestions and direction; repeating, clarifying; providing analysis and evaluation).

Social-emotional roles included behaviors that focused on the interpersonal relationships among group members, including: giving help and rewarding; showing understanding and acceptance; releasing tension through jokes and laughter. Additionally, Bales recognized the potential for dysfunctional roles in small group interaction and identified several possibilities. Among them were: antagonism and personal attacks; passive rejection or refusal to participate; creates tension.

Building upon these early studies of small group interaction, three prominent teams of university researchers independently developed two-factor models to describe essential leader behaviors. …

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