Each human being has unique behavior and qualities. However, some similarities in these behavior and qualities exist between individuals. To develop and practice our group and leadership skills this course required that we form two different groups and by working in them we were able to experience leadership and organizational dynamics.
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Both my colleagues and I learnt the characteristics and qualities that a proper leader should possess. We were also able to gauge our own leadership capacity or being a follower. This was an opportunity for me to understand the positive and negative aspects when working in a group and gain some new knowledge from others.In developing a group as well as improving our personality, theories were essential tools.
We applied these theories and concepts in interesting activities and as a result, we were able to understand them better. Eventually I gained experience in wide area from this interactive process. For instance, I was able to gain a new way to view others and myself as well as different events in the workplace and in life.
In this exercise, I participated in both Large Learning Group (LLG) as well as Peer Learning Group (PLG). I was able to identify variations in both qualities and behaviors among us as well as observe and compare the existing differences.
For instance, when the tutor asked us to form PLGs for the first time, majority of my colleagues formed theirs immediately while I was still struggling to find a group that would like my company. This was because unlike most of them I was too shy in making the first move and lacked in confidence to make acquaintance.
Fortunately, when I bumped into Songtao my former classmate, I was quite relieved because I was quite a nervous wreck. He enquired whether I was already in a group to which I obligingly said no. Then he asked me and three others to join him in order to form one. This was a clear indication that Songtao possessed leadership qualities and was very concerned.
That means I had a lot to learn from him. From there we held lengthy discussion to make project prioritization. This involved each group member’s participation in exchanging his or herown views with others. One lesson that I learnt from this discussion is that a leader is not an instructor who keeps disseminating information, but rather leadership is about coordinating the discussion in the right manner.
In this paper, I will seek to highlight the various theories that I learnt in the exercise and use them in the various incidents I experienced in both LLG and PLG sessions.
The first theory I learnt in this process is Argyris Double loop learning. From my experience, I came to appreciate its importance in leadership. This theory gives a leader the opportunity to engage all group members so that there can be goodwill amongst them all (Smith, 2001). So in order to understand this theory our tutor John required that we share and reflect on our experiences as per the theory. What came to my mind at this point is a friend of mine called Joe.
Joe is a supervisor in the company we both work in. He does not learn quickly his mistakes and often end up making the wrong decision. This is because he does not scrutinize critically the cause of problems and as a result, his judgments are usually false. From my experience, I know realized that what Joe lacks is creativity that is required when using double loop theory once a problem is detected.
As a result, instead of solving the problem he ends up failing. While reflecting on my experiences, I realized that I applied model II when relating with Songtao. This is because both of us had different cultural background and as a result, each of us had a different mother language.
Accordingly, we could only speak in English and it helped a lot in seeking valid information. This is because unlike what would have happened had I chosen someone who was from my own cultural background, with songtao I was able to develop my communication skills as well as understand the diversity in our culture. Speaking in English therefore meant we could avoid engaging in non important issues as it would have been the case when dealing with somebody we shared same Arabic accent.
The next theory we learnt in our group process is that of Phenomenological Awareness as applied in Gestalt therapy. Here we had to stand aside from our usual mode of thinking to differentiate our actual perception at each moment from what already existed from our experiences. The main goal of this theory is to develop awareness (Yontef, 1993). By participating in simple activity within our PLG, we were able to discern three awareness zones.
This activity involved grouping into a pair and sharing what we could see, feel, think and describing what our partners felt. In my case, I described the general sitting arrangement of various people engaged in the larger groups as what I could see. However, in describing what I felt this was quite tricky because it was not as obvious as describing what I could see. This made me realize why the exercise was so important.
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Other groups also seemed to be struggling by looking at the way people were using gestures to form images of their thoughts. As for my partner and I communication seemed difficult because of the intricate nature of describing the feelings that each of us possessed.
Another learning incident that changed my perception of activity-based learning is the experience with Gestalt’s Field Theory. By definition this theory states that objects that seems simple when far away may have different characteristics when observed and analyzed at a close range (Yontef, 1993).
This LLG activity involved selecting an object to observe from a distance and progressing slowly towards it. The object that we chose was a classroom that was about a hundred yards from where we were standing. From this distance, the classroom glass windows looked very smart and nothing seemed to be wrong with any of them. However, as we progressed towards the class we realized that some of the glass panes were missing and others were broken.
Therefore, what started for me as just a mere theory that had little significance started to make a lot of sense. I realized it is possible that something that one observes from a distance can have a completely new meaning when at a close range.
This activity developed some new knowledge to me that I should not make judgment of things at the face value. Other people also learnt this important lesson because like me they had also formed a low opinion about this exercise. This activity therefore turned out to be very important to all of us because at the end we were more knowledgeable than before.
I also learnt more about myself when dealing with contact-full communication task. It happened as we were developing better know how on theory of dialogic relation by Gestalt. This theory states that relationships enlarge with contact.
Where contact refers to experience that an individual has with factors outside self and as a result being in a position to communicate and understand the outer world (Yontef, 1993). This exercise involved giving answers to sixteen sets of questions that focused on how I handle other people in different scenarios. Once I developed the answers to these questions, the next step was to discuss them with another student from the same LLG like me.
Jason was part of my LLG and by choosing him, I was very comfortable. We exchanged the answers for our questions and shared the motive for selecting them. In our discussion, I realized that I lacked good reasons why I had chosen some of the answers. More to that Jason turned out to be very helpful when I did not have answers to some of the questions. This is by helping me understand them and acting like my guide.
Therefore, to me this exercise as well as Jason partnership turned up to be very educative.We exchanged leadership role throughout the exercise where at sometime, especially when I was supplying the answers, I acted as the leader and Jason as a follower and things reversed when I was being guided.
When Jason guided me he demonstrated to me Argyris theory, Model II. That is at sometimes I failed to closely scrutinize some situations as well as the manner I organized my thoughts. This is something that only came to my attention while doing this exercise with Jason.
The lesson that I learnt as a leader from this exercise is that it is essential to understand what I feel in a particular situation and to learn the way to react in each situation. Again, to understand the feelings that I have in a situation as well as when I state something. Further that as a leader when I have passed the message I intended to, I should pause because some people may not like the message.
This is particularly important because like I observed previously leaders do not entirely pass on information and it is therefore important to learn as well from others in real life. The exercise further taught me that as a leader I should ensure my message is delivered with clarity and devoid of misinterpretation.
This is because as a leader one should not in any way seem confused but instead should have in his/her mind clear goals and aims. Otherwise in case at some point there appears to be confusion, a leader should seek assistance from teammate like was the case with Jason and me in order to have the clarity they deserve.
More so, one can understand the group process by looking at five organizational processes. These are intrapersonal, group-as-a-whole, intergroup, interpersonal, and inter organizational (Wells, 1985). I therefore came to realize that LLG can be considered as a group-as- a whole, while PLG can be taken as a smaller group.
However, because in our groups we were very helpful to one another, it seemed more like a family as opposed to a group. I therefore learnt that in real life it is important for us to consider the group interest before making the final decision or act in certain way.
By the tenth week in the group learning process, we had learnt a lot about each other and most of all each one of us had learnt a lot about self. As a group there was a lot that we were proud of like the fact that we had managed to be there this long for each other and learn a thing or two from each other.
This stage was therefore an important period for the group to understand our progress in this experience through the help of incremental development model by Woodward.This model is divided into four sections with each having team characteristics. A team therefore progresses from one section to the other until it reaches the climax of the hierarchy.
The first section represents the undeveloped team, followed by experimental team, then consolidating team and finally mature team. Our activity in this day therefore was to determine in which quarter or section of the clock like model, our PLG group belonged to.
We were to share our thoughts on this task with our tutor because on this day only three of our group members were present. Giving my opinion on our group’s position was not easy for two reasons, first I am a very shy person and second my knowledge of the model was quite limited at that time.Majority of the students in the LLG group shared their opinion while a few others kept their calm like me.
I attributed the silence of these students to two things either they were too shy like me or lacked confidence in the model. This group participated in the discussion when prompted and by learning from them I realized that failing to chip in to the discussion meant I was pulling back my group’s progress.
I learnt that as a leader I should not contribute in a discussion only when prompted, instead I should demonstrate confidence and ability to communicate my views to other members of my team in a manner that they can appreciate. Therefore for the sake of my team’s position in Woodward’s model I strongly believed that our PLG belonged in Mature Team quarter.
To support my position I can site our dedication in the group, we had also improved our knowledge of strengths and weakness in our team members and as a result we could work well amongst each other by harnessing the good qualities in each team member.
Our team by now could also discuss matters that different members hold different opinions to more openly and accommodate these diversities of opinions.Even more we cared and listened to other group members’ ideas and plan our task and execute them as planned. These are the convincing facts that I presented in my argument that our group belonged to the mature team quarter.
Other students agreed with me and my lesson from this incidence is that instead of waiting to be requested by the tutor to speak I should always strive to give my opinion. This is because although it is always good to listen, it is equally important that as a leader one speaks out his/her opinion. I therefore came out of this exercise one notch wiser because I understood one of my weaknesses.
The next model that we looked at is the Trevor Tyson ART model. This model made me learn that the reason we had taken various position in our groups was due to the inherent authority to act in such a manner (Tyson, 2004).
External forces and previous experiences are some of the reason that might have influenced our decision in taking various positions. For instance some people were able to lead because of their nurturing or passing through situations that made them triumphant. On the other hand some of us were followers because that is the kind of life we are used to.
Lacking an opportunity to be a leader or being denied the opportunity to build the leadership confidence can be one of the reasons for the lack of leadership skills. For my case the decision to follow was due to my shyness as well as weakness in expressing myself. I am therefore less confident and this made me opt to follow instead of being in the lead.
A smaller group with time can develop to be a bigger group. However, this growth can either take a positive or negative direction. In Wilfred Bion psychodynamic theory this growth is called a lifecycle. Going by this theory as adopted by Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, two modality level of the group are highlighted. The first one is work group and second one is basic assumption group.
A group achieves the first status modality if members of a group work collaboratively with each other with a collective vision (Tyson, 1998). In such a situation there is rapid result in performing a task and quality of that work is maintained at high standards. Looking at our PLG situation I can justifiably say that we belonged to work group modality level since each team member played his role effectively.
The basic assumption group modality on the other hand is a group in which there is uncoordinated working among team members. It is therefore possible for team members to negate from group’s basic goal (Tyson, 1998). For this level our activity was to analyze our understanding levels for the psychodynamic perspective based on a scale of 0-10.
We were to rank ourselves in this scale as novice, competent or expert with their scales being 0-4, 5-7, 8—10 respectively. At first I rated myself as 4 and many other of my colleagues who had even better knowledge of psychodynamic rated themselves at lower scales than me.
My participation in this group learning process helped me a lot in improving my communication skills. For instance as opposed to waiting to be asked to provide my opinion in any situation I can now freely speak out my view. The process has seen me develop my leadership skills as well as those of other members of my team. The course in leadership and organization dynamic presented us with experiences as well as knowledge that completely transformed our understanding.
This is in both understanding how to handle other people as well as understand ourselves. For instance by handling their work in competent manner leaders in our groups at times ensured that the group progressed as a whole. This can be demonstrated by the manner in which leaders have been able to communicate what has been discussed in incidences where some members were missing in group’s discussion.
In addition our PLG leader was also able to iron out misconceptions in the group which enabled our group to grow and helped us to learn from our mistakes. Through this kind of leadership I have been able to develop my confidence and most importantly learn the value of true leadership.
The LLG was also a good group as team members were always helping each other. Both have therefore proved to be equally important to me and they have contributed to shape my learning experience with leadership. The lessons I have leant from the various experiences I had in both these groups is that I need to make certain improvements to myself in order to make a good leader.
Some of the lessons to improve leadership that I have learnt includeimproving my communication skills, not hiding in my fear when it comes to sharing opinions, not to underrate a person or task, raising my opinions openly instead of waiting to be asked to give these opinions, and finally is to clearly understand in my mind the goals and to be sure of what is taking place in the mind.
I can therefore say that to me the group’s experiences proved to be vital lessons for improving my leadership qualities as well as behavior.
- Smith, MK (2001), ‘Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning’,The encyclopedia of informal education, accessed from http://infed.org/mobi/chris-argyris-theories-of-action-double-loop-learning-and-organizational-learning/.
- Tyson, T (1998), ‘Working with Groups’, 2nd ED, MacMillan, Hong Kong
- Tyson, T ,2004, ‘The ART model: a model of behaviour in groups based on the relationship between authority, role and task’, Swinburne University of Technology, Blackboard website.
- Wells, L (1985), ‘The Group-as-a-Whole Perspective and its Theoretical Roots’ in A.D. Colman and M.H. Geller (eds) Group Relations Reader 2.
- Yontef, G (1993), ‘Gestalt Therapy: An Introduction’, The Gestalt Journal Press, USA.