Written 9/96 for CA266Every successful leader must have a basic set of certain traits, however the role of the leader in the group determines which extra, specialized traits that leader must have. I will discuss how our group's list of leadership traits, and those of our leader, compare to those special characteristics required of military, corporate, sports, and academic leaders.
As my group went around suggesting traits in discussion, it became clear that there was consensus for many attributes: motivation, organization, responsibility, ability to identify objective. It is important for the leader to be motivated for several reasons. Firstly, if the leader is not motivated to do her job, she will probably not do it well. More generally, this is supported by the statement, ``People who want to do a good job, will.'' (Packard, 1995) The converse of this is that the leader of the group is not motivated, her apathy will both negatively influence her performance and it will hurt the morale of the group (Packard, 1995).
The leader must be responsible; she must keep track of administrative information, make sure meetings take place at the right time and place, and insure that the other group members show up. Part of being responsible is being organized; the leader cannot be losing important papers and information needed for the group tasks. Communication is also important. The leader must be able to listen to her group so she can understand their ideas. She must have speaking skills so she can correctly explain ideas to the group. Without these, intragroup communication fails, and the group loses guidance. Each group exists to attain some goal. Sometimes there are short--term goals, like revising each other's papers, and sometimes there are long--term goals, like attaining world peace. The leader must be able to identify the group's goal and stay on task.
Leaders in different contexts must have specialized attributes: the military leader is different from a small group academic leader (Bormann \& Bormann, 1982). A military leader requires the ability to quickly make decisions; she must must make decisions when there is insufficient information. These type of situations could occur in battle when information about enemy locations is not known, but the troops must be moved because of an air strike or incoming artillery. Other traits of successful military leaders include the ability to control the group members and inspire them to perform in difficult circumstances. A striking example of this is Colonel Kurtz from the movie ``Apocalypse Now.'' He led his men into unspeakable horror, but they followed him. Although his sanity was in question, his ability to lead --- to control --- was indubitable. Our leader, Jess, would probably not make a good military leader. She does not assert her own opinion in a leadership position. The military leader must be assertive. Jess does not like to be in strict control of the group, contrasted to the military leader who must always be in control. The leader of a small group like ours must be more adept at small group discussion leadership than the military leader. Jess is a good at guiding small group discussion. Another reason Jess would probably not do well as a military leader is that she does not like physically hurting people.
The CEO of a corporation has similar traits to the military leader. Instead of destroying enemies with bombs, missiles, and bullets, she uses new products and corporate buy--outs. The tasks she must perform are the same. She must control the company; she must inspire her employees to perform the best they can. Jess would not be a very good leader in a high pressure corporate environment. I think she would, however, be a good leader in a business environment where compromise and cooperation are required.
Jess makes a good leader of a sports team; she is president of the UW Rugby Club. The sports leader has to recognize individual talents and delegate responsibility based on those talents. She must be sensitive to the patterns of interaction and make sure that differences in communication style between the members do not hinder group performance. She must be able to inspire the others do perform the best they can.
The leader of a small academic research or project group is likewise different. In this setting, the leader has to clearly define the tasks for the group members, and must make sure each understands how their contribution will fit into the group product. A good example of this type is a group of four or five seniors, working on their senior project. The entire project is too big for any individual to do, and even the design stages cannot be done by one person alone. In this case, the group leader must be able to guide the group through the design stages, to the point where individual functional blocks of the device can be assigned to group members.
The traits that make a group successful in one context do not necessarily make the group successful in another setting. The military general is different from the sports team leader, and they are both different than an academic group leader. Jess would make a good leader in the sports or academic group settings, but would probably not make a good military or corporate leader.
REFERENCESPackard, David. (1995). The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company. New York: HarperBusiness
Bormann, Ernest G., & Bormann, Nancy C. (1982). Effective Small Group Communication. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Pub. Co.