Leadership and power in social group work

  1. Introduction
  2. Group Leadership
  3. Important Characteristics of Group Leader 
  4. Different styles of leadership
  5. Leadership and Power
There are many essential elements to being an effective leader. A group leader must be responsible for not only participating in the group and ensuring that the group's goal is attained but also for motivating the team, delivering success, and being a resource that group members can reach out to for help. A leader as the word stands is someone who leads others. He/she should have a vision, commitment, and drive to achieve the goal of the group. The leader must motivate and inspire confidence in the members of the group. The leader must be flexible, and adaptable and should be capable to face all types of situations including setbacks, challenges and failures in a calm and composed manner. He/she must be able to extract work from each member of the group after assigning a particular task according to the individual’s capacity as it may differ from person to person.

Group Leadership 
Leadership is the capacity to motivate a group of individuals towards the fulfillment of the group’s objectives. The capacity to motivate could derive from the power that is both formal and informal for formal and informal influence is important in leadership. It is widely accepted that leadership can transpire from within a group as well as by formal appointment to lead a group. 
In social group work, one finds and encourages emergence of leaders from within the group. Some kind of leadership is present in every group, though it is not definite whether the group is aware of this fact. It is also observed that the type of leadership has an effect on the group. Depending on the objectives, nature, size and composition of the group, leadership needs to evolve.

Important Characteristics of Group Leader 

1-Effective communication: -The leader should have the capacity to communicate effectively to other team members. The group leader should engage in active listening and be aware of various verbal and non verbal communications that the group engages in. In addition, leaders need to pay attention to the context from which meanings come.
2-Constancy-Group leaders can emphasize the reality of constancy and security through a variety of specific behaviors. For example, group leaders need to respond consistently to particular behaviours. They should maintain clear and consistent boundaries, such as specific start and end times, standards for comportment, and ground rules for speaking
3-Motivation:-n In order to establish a good working rapport with every member of the group, the group leaders should be able to address each member by name. It is also important to inculcate a sense of motivation in the members in order to optimize every member’s contribution to group processes.
4-Firm identity-A firm sense of their own identities, together with clear reflection on experiences in group, enables leaders to understand and manage their own emotional lives. For example, therapists who are aware of their own capacities and tendencies can recognize their own defenses as they come into play in the group.Group work can be extremely intense emotionally. 

Leaders who are not in control of their own emotional reactions can do significant harm—particularly if they are unable to admit a mistake and apologize for it. A group leader also should be emotionally healthy and keenly aware of personal emotional problems, lest they become confused with the urgent issues faced by the group as a whole. The leader should be aware of the boundary between personal and group issues.
5-Confidence-Effective group leaders operate between the certain and the uncertain. In that zone, they cannot rely on formulas or supply easy answers to clients’ complex problems. Instead, leaders have to model the consistency that comes from self‐knowledge and clarity of intent, while remaining attentive to each client’s experience and the unpredictable unfolding of each session’s work. This secure grounding enables the leader to model stability for the group.

Different Style of Leadership-

Directive-When the task to be accomplished is unclear or difficult to be achieved, the leader ensures its successful accomplishment through clearly defining individual tasks and role expectations of members. His intervention is meaningful in such instances. However, this style may not be suitable where the tasks in question are well defined and easy to attain.
Supportive -The leader shows high concern towards group members and their needs. This style is suitable for groups working on well-defined tasks. Members under the supportive leader are found to be happy and highly satisfied.
Participative -Here, the leader involves the group members in decision-making and in all functions of the group. Discussions, consultations, and group consensus are stressed upon. However, this calls for members who are responsible and who understand the importance of their contribution to the group’s success.
Charismatic Medha Patkar pioneer of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) is considered to be a charismatic leader for the following reasons: (i) ability to inspire followers towards goals that appear incredible to the common man (ii) vision about the future (iii) understanding followers’ needs and limitations.
Transformational -This highlights on leaders who inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests and who are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on followers. Seven characteristics were found: sincerity of the leader; bonding – the effort to develop the organization as a family by personalized relationships; consultation and participation; collectivization and teamwork; empowerment and support; serving as a role model; bringing in changes continuously while maintaining continuity and being innovative”

Leadership and Power

Power refers to the worker’s resources for changing conditions inside and outside the group. Actual power depends on the sources of a worker’s influence. The power bases described by French and Raven (1959) follow: 
  1. Connection power – being able to call on and use influential people or resources 
  2. Expert power – having the knowledge or skill to facilitate the work of the group
  3.  Information power – possessing information that is valuable to and needed by others  
  4. Legitimate power – holding a position of authority and the rights that accrue to that position in the organization or larger social system 
  5. Reference power – being liked and admired; the group members want to be identified with the worker 
  6. Reward power – being able to offer social or tangible rewards 
  7. Coercive power – being able to sanction, punish, or deny access to resources and privileges
Power and leadership are largely interconnected. The effective leader understands that legitimate power and influence are needed to direct the group, especially. leader has to take up a mature use of power rather than being uncomfortable or too much in control. This power should be used to empower the group towards shouldering responsibilities willingly and also in successfully completing them. Groups need leaders to avoid disorganization and chaos; leadership and power are inseparable (Etzioni, 1961). The leader needs to aid power-sharing with the group by highlighting the importance of member-to-member communication rather than member-to-leader communication.


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