Leadership in Small Groups

In education, it is common to have students work in groups. Natural, there are many problems in having students work together. One common problem is determining the direction of the group through deciding on leadership. This post will share insights into group leadership by sharing the following

  • Types of leadership
  • Functions of leadership

Types of Leadership

Leadership is the ability to influence those around you to achieve goals. In groups, leadership can take on one of many forms, such as,

  • Implied
  • Emergent
  • Designated

Implied leadership is the selection of a leader due to their higher status or rank. For example, if several freshmen are working with a junior on a project, often they will defer to the junior because he or she is older and or of a higher academic rank.

Emergent leadership is the rise of a leader due to their assertiveness. This can be good or bad. It is good if the group is off track or stalemated. It is bad if the leader takes power through the force of their personality for their own benefit.

Designated leadership is leadership through election or appointment. In this example, the leader is formally chosen before the group begins working or at the beginning of the life of the group.

Teachers should make sure they have some sort of plan for setting up leadership in groups. The way this happens is context depended but not being aware of how leadership is developed in a group can lead to problems within groups.

Functions of Leadership

Leaders have several major rolls and these include

  • Procedural responsibilities
  • Task responsibilities
  • Maintenance responsibilities

Procedural responsibilities involve the various housekeeping needs of groups. This includes agenda for meetings, meetings time and location, and starting and ending meetings on time.

Task responsibilities center around getting things done. This includes assigning a task to others, helping the group to stay focused, and or solving group problems.

Maintenance responsibilities are about the interpersonal relationships within a group. Some examples of how a leader deals with this includes providing support for members and helping members to get along with each other.

It is not necessary for one leader to do all of these functions themselves. Rather, it is the leader’s job to make sure that all of these responsibilities are taken care of within the group or team. If any of these responsibilities are ignored serious problems can arise as the group tries to work.


Groups normally need some form of leadership, otherwise, there will be no direction. There are many ways that a leader can arise in a group. Regardless of how a leader is selected, they have certain responsibilities that they need to assure are completed by them or some other member.

Teachers must keep in mind how leaders will be selected for groups in their classes. In addition, they must be sure to explain to the leader the responsibilities they have as this will lessen confusion within the group.

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