Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Attitudes and Behavior That Characterize a Power Play in a Small Group

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Attitudes and Behavior That Characterize a Power Play in a Small Group

Article excerpt


Studies have recommended flatter organizational structures and more cross-functional teams as the best strategy for successful organizations but leading less-hierarchical systems and virtual workgroups requires more influence and power (Pfeffer, 2010). More than ever, scholars and leaders need to understand the role of power in effective leadership to cope with an everchanging global economy.

Moreover, organizations provide an opportunity for individuals to develop their careers through the acquisition of power as the means for transforming individual interests into activities which consequentially impact other people (Zaleznik, 1970). Group members have varying levels of expectations and need for affiliation, achievement, power and resources (Arrow et al., 2000). Members of a group need a functional level of agreement (explicitly or implicitly) on, (a) how membership status is determined, (b) the acceptable degree of power disparity and (c) the rules and norms governing the use of power (Arrow et al., 2000). Without explicit or implicit agreement on pertinent issues, conflict and "power plays" may ensue among members of that group. For the purpose of this study, "Power Play" is defined as "an attempt by a person, group or organization to use power in a forceful and direct way to get or do something" (MerriamWebster, 2015).

A review of the extant literature reveals that some of the dynamics of organizational behavior such as conflict, stress and commitment have received a fair amount of attention, but power has relatively been neglected by researchers (Luthans, 2010). Northouse (2015) posits that though power is clearly a vital component of the leadership process, research on its role in leadership is scarce. The emphasis on flat organizational structures and the resultant prominence of follower empowerment have relegated research on power to a lower level in empirical studies (Yi, Jia&Changkun, 2014). Specifically, Arrow et al. (2000) report that only limited research has illuminated how members and activity in a group fulfill or fail to fulfill member needs for power. Understanding the dynamics of power is critical to the understanding of group and organizational behavior, particularly leadership effectiveness (Yi, Jia & Changkun, 2014).

The goal of this study is to use an exegetical study in Numbers 12 to investigate and understand power play as exhibited between three siblings in a leadership team. The study will reveal nuances of attitudes and behavior that precede and characterize a power play in a small group. The study will also suggest ways power plays may be prevented and resolved in leadership teams.


From the beginning of time, isolation and solitary life are not the standard behavior for human beings. The Bible records, "It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Genesis, KJV). The propensity for humans to gravitate towards each other in groups is a normal social behavior that deserves understanding and critical study. It is widely known that some of the most important events in one's life take place in groups or community. Forsyth (2014) posits that the comprehensive understanding of people requires the understanding of their groups. In this section of the paper, we will discuss the definition of a group, the types of groups, group interdependence, group member needs and their goals.

Definition of a Group

According to Forsyth (2014), the definition of a group depends on the foci of attention by the different researchers or theorists. Various scholars emphasize different features or foci of group activity in their descriptions and analysis of groups. Below in Table 1 is a sample of some of the definitions suggested by several scholars:

Notwithstanding, this study will adopt the definition presented by Forsyth (2006) that states a group is defined as "two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationships. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.