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Leader Role in Decision-Making Discussion

Remember why leaders call meetings? Primarily, they want information or advice or help solving a problem. In other words, input is needed from workers. If it is being done right, members will efficiently use their resources (work information, experience, special skills or knowledge) to arrive at high quality decisions that will be implemented fully. This is a tall order!

How does leader behavior figure in this scheme? Leaders can succeed or fail based on their meeting behavior! An authoritative person who admonishes or lectures a group and then asks for a decision can expect little effort in implementation. Add a little arrogance or insensitivity to the mix and leaders stir up resentment, as well. Guess what happens to implementation efforts! A participative leader who listens and encourages a group to arrive at its own conclusions can expect implementation of decisions without much further ado. Meeting leaders need to decide which results are desired.

Is an authoritative position always wrong? No! When decisions don't require committed action from group members, or when coordination of members' activities is simple and easy, or when decisions have to be made quickly, an authoritative role is appropriate. So don't think that the ONLY way to make decisions is to arrive at consensus! In the situations just mentioned, leaders go and do. However, if quick implementation and good morale are integral to a decision, leaders should use participative styles.

Kurt Lewin (1951) did classic experiments during World War II to discover how to change people's attitudes and behaviors. Good cuts of meat were in short supply, so shoppers were encouraged to buy kidneys and sweetbreads. Those who promised aloud to buy the less desirable cuts carried through their verbal commitment at far greater rates than those who promised privately. Another study asked college students to set goals for their reading and exam scores. Half verbalized their commitment; half did not. At mid-semester, the publicly committed students averaged 86-percent improvement compared to 14-percent improvement of others. Spoken commitment helps to change behavior and attitudes. Further, when consensus is felt in groups, social support for changing is enhanced. This is why group decision making is important to organizations and to leaders.

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