Process Leadership

Here is the introduction of an article I presented at the Process Communication World conference in Potomac in July 2009.

This article explores the concept of team leadership. Its purpose is to study how a leader can use his internal resources or “talents” in a Process Communication Model (Taibi Kahler, 1978) perspective in order to deal with specific dynamics of the group’s development and members’ needs and expectations. Similarities and coherences between Berne’s Group Imago & Tuckman’s stages of group development (Clarkson, 1991) and development cycles (Levin, 1980) will be used to determine the link between the group development and the appropriate leadership tasks and role evolution. Sari van Poelje’s article “Learning for leadership” (2004) and her mentoring way to teach TA were the sources of inspiration to link leadership actions with the use of internal resources according to the group dynamics.

The topic of leadership spans several dimensions, covering a wealth of knowledge that has grown exponentially in the past decades. Early approaches of leadership focused on the activities of the leader. For example L.L Bernard (1927) wrote: “The leaders are influenced by the needs and hopes of the members of the group. In answer, they turn their attention on the fact of releasing energies of the group in the desired direction.” More recent research has dealt with the roles of leaders, and with leadership behavior. Although theorists and selection specialists dealt with the criterion of selecting leaders a certain competency has not gained serious attention: the ability to handle group processes. This competency may seem insignificant at first compared with traditional competencies like analysis and communication. However if we consider the fact that leaders do not just lead individual people but they lead teams, and whole structured organizations, then the importance of this ability increases rapidly. In this article I present a framework based on the Process Communication Model, Transactional Analysis and other theories that outlines a critical aspect of this competency: the tasks of a leader during the different stages of group formation.

Leadership Competencies to deal with group dynamics
In his book: “Structure and dynamics of groups and organizations”, Eric Berne (1963) makes the link between, structure of the organization, individual personalities and the underlying psychodynamic structure. In this context, one of his major contributions is the concept of Group Imago . Although Berne did not emphasize the leader’s actions, competencies and personality traits that are required to deal with group dynamics, he stated that the leader’s personality structure is characterized by the use of every capability and the ability to “move” from an ego state to another according to the situation. Thus, we can rely on theories, which focus on behavior and action and state what a leader is supposed to do.
Thus, leaders are asked to act in accordance with the organization goals and culture and are selected according to their ability to use competencies that are linked to them.
The selection process rarely explores the leader’s ability to deal with group dynamics according to his personality traits while he or she is confronted with group dynamics during his or her whole involvement.
Process Communication Model® used by NASA since the 80’s in recruitment and selection of astronauts, provides scientifically validated information about personality traits from which sets of competencies may be defined according to position requirements.

Theses 3 approaches – Group Dynamics, Situational Leadership and Personality, enable us to understand what is going on, What to do when in leadership role, and where to find the internal resources to appropriately do what needs to be done.

The article (available upon request) presents some case example and useful tips to better deal with group dynamics and to know when to be directive, when and how to support team members, or when and how to delegate work and responsibilities.

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