By and large, extraordinary groups promote shared leadership. Group members become leaders by taking the initiative, offering ideas, and proposing actions, and they ultimately feel responsible for the outcomes of the group.
In extraordinary groups, leaders encourage all members to be engaged and act as leaders, too.
Extraordinary group leaders are more often facilitative than directive. The goal of a facilitative leader is to provide the group with the direction it needs, not to do all the directing. The facilitative leader believes the group must share accountability, participation, responsibility, and power. To create an extraordinary group experience, a leader should:
- Frame an inspiring Purpose — A leader needs to help group members discover their personal connection to the group and help them think about why the group’s Purpose is important.
- Lead with a light touch — Extraordinary groups should be led with a light touch, not with rigid control, micro-management, or tightly structured boundaries. Using a low-key style and opening up the group’s structure and process encourages the involvement of others. A leader should focus on the desired outcomes and use a minimum of control.
- Keep issues discussable — A leader needs to create a safe place for people to express and embrace their differences. Members’ opinions should be heard and alternatives should be raised; managers should encourage authentic-but-uncomfortable conversation. Keeping potentially contentious issues out in the open reinforces the value of seeing the whole.
- Manage the world around their group — Group members should be free of external issues that can distract or discourage them. As such, an effective leader will act as a buffer between the larger organization and the group, shielding it from politics and outside forces. The leader should also think about how best to represent the group to the outside world.
- Put the right team together — A leader should try to bring the right people together, making it a point to understand why each member joined the group. Members need to be willing to sacrifice self-interest and demonstrate their commitment to the group’s Purpose. If a member repeatedly conflicts with the group’s Purpose, it may be necessary to help that individual leave the group; individuals who repeatedly cause conflict with the group will throw the group off track. The leader is responsible for confronting the disruptive member about leaving the group.
- Design and facilitate meetings with the Group Needs in mind — When facilitating group meetings, Group Needs must be put first. A leader should ask himself or herself how the meeting will meet the needs of Acceptance and Potential, Bond and Purpose, and Reality and Impact. While it is not necessary for every meeting to address each of the six Group Needs, the leader should strive to touch each of these needs over time. Meetings should be led in a facilitative style, using more questions than statements and offering observations instead of judgments.
When nurtured properly, small groups have the potential to achieve extraordinary results; they solve complex problems, uncover unexpected opportunities, and surpass early expectations.
When group members, leaders and facilitators to strive to meet the six Group Needs — Acceptance and Potential, Bond and Purpose, and Reality and Impact — transformative, “magical” experiences are much more likely to occur, leaving members changed, energized, connected, and hopeful.