Have you looked at gold and precious metals prices lately? One look at silver prices per ounce over the last several years should take the doubt out of anyone’s mind as to whether silver and other precious metals are a solid investment to make. Clearly, the precious metals business is booming, and if you provide a product or service that adds value to the precious metals industry, your business will be booming too. How can you get in on the precious metals boom? Read on.
- Sell or market a technology that has applications in the precious metals industry. For example, portable precious metals melters or furnaces are becoming more and more useful and common as the precious metals industry gains steam. Analytical equipment that can be used to accurately analyze and hallmark gold and silver content, for example x-ray fluorescence analyzers, is also seeing an uptick in sales from the precious metals industry.
- Because of the high price of precious metals, refineries and mints are currently in competition for sources of scrap precious metals, usually jewelry. Become a refinery marketer or customer relationship manager, and be the relationship manager between pawn shops and cash-for-gold buyers and refineries. Find the most efficient shops with the highest intake, and partner them with the refinery that has contracted you. Alternatively, market yourself as a manager for smaller scrap precious metals collection ventures, such as individuals, and become an umbrella organization or middle man that brings refineries and scrap jewelry together faster.
- Become an affiliate marketer for a refinery or mint, and market the final product (precious metal bullion or rounds) to communities that the refineries of mints do not easily reach. Are you part of a community where English is not the only language spoken? You can add value to a mint or refinery by helping to target communities in their native or heritage languages. Are you a trusted member of a community? As an affiliate marketer, you can tout the benefits of being a precious metals owner, and the quality and return of precious metals investments.
- Become a scrap silver and gold buyer yourself, and market yourself locally while offering competitive prices for scrap jewelry.
- Claim or buy properties that are likely to contain precious metals deposits, and then market them to mining companies or investors at a profit. Old-fashioned prospecting still does pay off.
- Become a precious metals commodity trader, or manage investments that include precious metals investments for yourself or others.
Whatever you do, remember that the value proposition in the precious metals industry always comes down to purity, accuracy, and profit. Also remember to watch the prices of the precious metals in which you are investing, whether as a direct investor or a marketer. While the general cost of precious metals is squarely rising, daily fluctuations may help you make an extra buck. Lastly, whatever your role, remember that trust, honesty, and accuracy is of the utmost importance in the precious metals industry. Never give anyone an incorrect or inaccurate value as to the precious metal content of any given object. If you do, you’ll find yourself short on associates very quickly.
- Back to Basics Marketing
- Marketing as Company Wide Responsibility
- Mobilization: Reaching Outside the Marketing Department
- Advanced Lead Qualification: Sales and Marketing Work Together
- Sales’ Feedback into Marketing: Profiling Prospects and Their Problems
- “Inside Marketing”: Marketing to Your Own Sales Organization
- Developing Unique, Customer-Focused Value Propositions
- How to Train an Entry-Level Marketing Employee
- When Return on Investment Doesn’t Paint a Full Picture
- Logos and Promotional Product Designs for “Difficult” Subjects
- Defining and Refining Value Propositions for Luxury Items
- Evaluating Return-On-Investment (ROI) for Tradeshow Activities
- Management Mistake in Small Business: No Investment during Trying Times
- You Are Here Marketing and Sales of Gold, Silver, and Precious Metals
- Defining and Perfecting Value Propositions for Personal Financial Products and Services
Group standards may be defined as the level of performance acceptable to the group itself. Certain groups may be known for their high standards in relation to qualifications required to become a member. They may also set high standards of member conduct participation in group activities, democratic decision making, and successful work completion. Other groups may be known for their sloppy meeting procedure, inept discussion, and jobs poorly or only partially done.
Group standards may be either implied or clearly stated.
Nevertheless every group has its standards which, when enforced by social control, become important factors in determining the performance level of each member as well as the group as a whole. These standards become the group’s expectations of its members and also determine the member’s expectations of his group. Certain levels of expectations of other groups often then are judged in terms of the standards associated with the group.
Standards must be realistic – within the level of attainment of the group. They should be understood by all group members. Deviation from these expected performance standards, either above or below, is frowned on by the members, and the group sets up ways of securing conformance. If a member does not conform he is rejected. In most cases group members are more clearly in agreement on what the group norms or standards are than their observable behavior would indicate. Behavior is seldom in strict conformance to the ideal standard, but the limits of toleration are fairly well understood.
Some groups have found it advantageous to make both their expectations and their violations more explicit. For example, they might levy a small fine on a member for being late to meetings to make explicit the standard of prompt attendance. A frank discussion of what the chairman of a committee has a right to expect of his committeemen, or vice versa, may lead to more clearly understood standards of committee operation.
In some cases failure to live up to group standards results from poor definition of the standards themselves. More frequently it is due to individuals not being aware of the standards or not understanding them.
Group standards can be made more explicit and in many cases raised by looking objectively at either past performance or contemplated action and asking the group members if it is an acceptable level of performance.
In most cases, higher group standards are set when the entire group is involved in setting the standards as compared with standards being SEC by a small clique or an individual. Members have greater motivation to conduct themselves in keeping with those standards – to maintain their own conduct and to see that other group members maintain their conduct.
In terms of individual frustration or satisfaction, it is important that the standards are consistent – not rigidly enforced at one meeting and loosely at the next. This seems more important than the actual level at which the standards are set.
In general, the closer the individual comes to living up to all group standards or norms, the higher will be the group status of that individual, and his sense of satisfaction with his relationship.
Every community has a value system. There is a pattern of acceptable goals and acceptable means for striving toward them. Individuals and groups have status in a community to the extent that they have accepted and achieved (by approved means) the important “community” goals.
Every group has a status in the community, whose members rank it in relationship to coexisting groups. Where and how a group is ranked depends to a degree upon how consistent its goals, objectives, and means are with the general community values. Related to its status is its role – or what the community expects it to do. At any given time two or more groups may be competing for a given status position. Any or all of these forces may affect the goals the group sets, and how it attempts and how hard it will work to accomplish them.
Many local groups have affiliations with an organizational structure which exists outside the community. The Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, many church denominations, and Federated Women’s Clubs are examples of this type. Most affiliated community groups have a high degree of local autonomy. But there are many instances where the “over-all organization” does exert influence through counsel, guidance, required or recommended programs and policies, and program aids provided to the local affiliate. It is important to recognize that such external forces affecting group function exist and must be considered in understanding group functioning.
Sometimes groups have problems in this regard because they are affiliated with outside organizations which do not hold the same values as the community. For example, the parent organization may set down certain policy positions on a national level. In some communities these policies may not be completely acceptable. The local unit is faced with the task of adjusting to this difference in values.
Groups, like individuals, can make different adjustments when faced with this kind of a dilemma: they can ignore the community values, which means they risk losing status or being ostracized by the community; they can ignore the institutional values, which means they risk censure by the parent institution; or they can try to adjust between the two. The fact that they are an integral part of an extra-community pattern as well as an integral part of the community is a force which constantly influences their activities and behavior. To understand such groups, one must recognize the value orientation of both the community and the parent institutions.
Groups with affiliation outside the community must often walk a tight-wire between individual group member interests, community values, and the values of the “over-all organization.” In many cases these are not completely compatible.
Another type of group is found in nearly every community. It is a subdivision of an existing formal structure. A good example is the “ladies aid society” – an integral part of most churches. The goals and objectives of these groups, and their means of attaining them, must be consistent with those of the parent group.
Most communities have groups that are independent of any formal group structure existing beyond the community. This independent group usually reflects community values and the social level of most of its members. Though independent, the community has expectations of the group, assigns it status, and has some influence on it. Such forces will affect its ongoing activities and must be considered in understanding its functioning.
A group must learn to recognize and mobilize all the resources within and is to move toward its goals. If we are to make the most of our potential, we first must know what the potential is. In many cases we have unique member resources that we do not tap because we are not aware that they exist.
The group must serve its members just as the members should serve the group. Specific interests or problems of group members must be known if the group as a unit is to “grow.” We often can understand interest, lack of interest, personally centered activity, or aggression if we recognize the heterogeneous composition of the group. Group heterogeneity may also place limitations on the objectives, techniques, and accomplishments of the group. The crux is that we must recognize that we have some degree of heterogeneity in all groups and learn to understand these differences from the point of view of how they might be harnessed for greatest group productivity.
We tend to group ourselves on both the informal and formal level on a relatively homogeneous basis – a basis of similarities – according to such characteristics as interests, status, intelligence, and occupation. However, even within these relatively homogeneous groups there is a great degree of heterogeneity – differences – when compared on the basis of such characteristics as age, moral standards, formal education, and values. Groups which take the time to analyze their resources from the point of view of both their homogeneity and heterogeneity make better use of their group potential and reach higher productivity. It also seems true that once the group recognizes the uniqueness of individuals they can better integrate those individuals into the group and better utilize their potentials for the common good. Furthermore, group members working together over time tend to become more homogeneous in interests, objectives, and satisfactions.
First the group – its individual members, its internal and external dynamics – should be considered. The leader must take into account the membership; their interests, drives, and skills as well as their inhibitions, blocks, and frustrations. The human individual is the unit of raw material with which the group leader must work, and the greater the leader’s knowledge of human behavior in general and of the individual concerned in particular, the more useful choices he can make.
If a person were in a group largely for the security he felt the group gave him, it might be unwise to place him in a totally new situation. It would probably not be wise to throw one who has great difficulty expressing himself into a situation where he had to give a lecture. Some other technique should be used to tap the resources which this person can contribute to the group. Techniques should be tailored to fit the individuals concerned.
Forces at work within and without the group – dynamics of the group – must be considered in any rational selection of a group method. Several, or all, of the following elements of group dynamics should enter into the selection of a technique: size, atmosphere, standards, skills available, social controls, identity, general role definition, functional unit act roles, participation, and evaluation.
Group discussion, for example, works best in a small group in which the atmosphere is democratic and permissive rather than tense and inhibited. When a group is large “buzz groups” may accomplish similar ends. This technique is a waste of time when the group is of manageable size.
The most common of all techniques, the lecture, has a serious fault. It is only one-way communication. A very effective method, “role playing,” is also dangerous when social controls, identity, and objective evaluation are on an insecure basis within the group. Recreational or musical activities are sometimes chosen to break down status stratification in a group, but if injected into the wrong situation may actually increase hostility and tension.
A full knowledge of the forces making up the internal dynamics is the most likely way of avoiding pitfalls in technique selection.
The leader’s choice of a technique will also be affected by what he sees when he looks at the external dynamics. Forces impinging upon the group from the outside may have very significant effects upon the choice of a technique. Some institutions, such as certain churches and schools, frown upon music and dancing, thus placing severe restrictions on recreational methods. Other institutions place certain functionaries above the necessity of answering to the group. It might be unacceptable to involve a member of a church hierarchy in many types of activity, even though it could be very desirable from the standpoint of ends sought.
Community expectations often cause groups to bring in “name” lecturers when a different technique entirely might be more effective. Outside consultants are often used when local people might be expected to do a better job if they were free from community pressures. Choices are affected by the attitude of the community – the external dynamics.
When the method selector looks in the other direction, toward the goals of the group, he will again see a wide and varied assortment of factors influencing his choice. It will be remembered that all goals were divided into those which were strictly informative to the group and those which ostensibly call for action. It is obvious that this division frequently calls for completely different methods. Goals were also divided into long-run and short-run objectives, and again the means of achieving them may be better adapted to one form than another.
If the purpose of a meeting is a straightforward, logical, uninterrupted presentation of a single subject the “symposium” technique might be ideal. If the varying points of view are to be presented by only two people of roughly equal qualifications, the “dialogue” is a useful technique. An interesting combination of several techniques was presented in the Nixon-Kennedy television “debates” in the 1960 presidential campaign. To tap the ideas of as many people as possible, “buzz groups” or “huddle groups” are often used to approximate the benefits of general discussion in small groups. Full group discussion may be the only way to achieve consensus, but to’ free inhibitions and create a permissive atmosphere it may be necessary to precede this with some recreational or relaxing techniques.
Another characteristic of group objectives not previously stressed is that almost invariably they are subject to subdivision. Even short-run goals can be broken down into a series of intermediate objectives, and this may also be true of single-meeting goals. Each of the resulting intermediate goals may then be approached with a different technique which would seem to apply more logically to the situation. Combined techniques are really the rule rather than the exception and are particularly used when the objectives can be fragmented.
A general example of this would occur when some group might wish to solve a certain problem – say to improve some item of group process. First, a panel discussion might be set up, with those most concerned presenting the various aspects of the problem. The moderator would have the function of getting the panel under way and of keeping the discussion on the point. An important function of this technique would be to stimulate interest of all participants and to identify essential elements. The panel discussion might end with a general colloquy which in essence would serve to complete the definition of the problem and a crystallization of the essential facts involved. The group might then go into buzz groups to discuss the problem with instructions for each to suggest a solution. Then a general discussion could follow with the aim of achieving consensus. The advantages of such a prepared series of techniques over a desultory general discussion should be obvious as should the fact that combined techniques are often the most effective solution, even to a fairly simple problem.
It should be re-emphasized that to carry out the above program the leadership needs to know much about the individual members and their personalities. Also it is important to understand the “group personality,” its internal and external dynamics, and to have a clear appreciation of the specific objectives of the group. An understanding of the basic techniques and what each might be expected to accomplish can then be applied in the selections eventually made.
It is axiomatic in the discussion of methods that each technique has a definite potential for the mobilization of individual and group forces and for directing them toward group goals. This potential can only be realized, however, when knowledge, understanding, experience, and skill are present.
Groups are as old as mankind. Some sort of technique for securing group action is certainly as old as communication, no doubt antedating oral language. With the development of languages and written history we find many references to group action techniques in religious, pre-historical, and mythological literature. We recognize the “lecture” technique. Many times we read of groups being swayed to action by forms of the lecture; for example the “harangue” or the “exhortation.”
But while group techniques are ancient, their study under scientific methods is relatively new. Revolutions in group methods accompanied the development of spoken language. They were further changed with the advent of printing and the spread of literacy. Today we may be seeing a new revolution centered around mechanical aids: tape, film, television, and amplifiers.
Everything that furthers the group process is a technique. This logically includes coffee breaks, banquets, picnics, and teas. Various types of entertainment serve a similar purpose, and result in group singing, dancing, and talent nights. The difficulty of trying to cover the entire field in detail is apparent.
Group atmosphere is the pervading mood, tone, or feeling that permeates the group.
To begin with, the actual physical setting in which the group operates is important in helping determine the group atmosphere. The lighting, ventilation, or even the drabness or brightness of the room may be contributing factors to group atmosphere. The seating arrangement is also important. Seating in a circular or elliptical pattern where everyone can be seen and no persons are in physically dominant positions may be valuable in creating a friendly, permissive atmosphere.
Such a simple consideration as making sure that each member of the group has not only met each of the other members but has had opportunity to know a little about them is important. Addressing people by their preferred names can improve group atmosphere.
When individuals meet and work together they no longer behave only as individual units but respond as a collective whole to the prevailing group atmosphere. In the groups with warm, permissive, democratic atmosphere, there seems to be greater work motivation and greater satisfaction and the individuals and groups are more productive. There seems to be less discontent, frustration, and aggression in these groups. There is more friendliness, cordiality, cooperation, and “we-feeling.” There also seems to be more individual thinking, more creativeness, and better motivation. Participation in decision making in this democratic permissive atmosphere seems to facilitate the development of the individual motivations that serve to increase member productivity and morale.
A group member’s behavior is determined to a considerable extent by his perception of the reaction of the group toward him. The individual who feels secure, who perceives himself as having adequate group skills, more often takes the lead in group activities. The total resources of the group can be tapped more adequately when all individuals feel free to contribute and question as the group moves toward its goals. Motivation and morale reach high levels in a democratic permissive atmosphere where there is active participation of both the leaders and members of the group.
The atmosphere may be one of fear or suspicion; fear of being ridiculed, made fun of, or rejected. There may be a feeling of suspicion in the sense that people distrust each other, their motives, or their willingness to really say what they think. The group atmosphere may be aggressive everyone at each other’s throat. The atmosphere may be apathetic – no life or vitality, with everyone waiting for someone else to do or say something.
On the other hand, the atmosphere of a group can be friendly and warm. It can be permissive – where everyone feels free to express himself honestly and participate in group activity for a free and open exchange of ideas and feelings.
There can be an authoritarian atmosphere. The responsibility is with the authority and no one may participate or initiate action except at the dictate of the authoritarian leader. It is presumed that the authority knows best what the group should believe and do. Group member behavior is directed toward the authority’s predetermined ends.
There can be a democratic atmosphere. Leadership is shared by all, and individuals strive to recognize and play roles needed for group productivity. The responsibility of the formal leader and other group members is that of creating conditions – including group atmosphere – under which group members are best able to work together to accomplish chosen ends.
A crucial stage of atmosphere creation is the opening of a meeting. The way the leader introduces himself and the subject, the length of time he speaks, how dogmatically he speaks, and the spelling out of the general role expectations of group members can all be important factors contributing to a good group atmosphere.
Underlying the establishment of a warm, friendly, permissive feeling are certain fundamental considerations that all group members should have. There must be a basic belief in the value of the individual – a sincere belief in the dignity of man and an honest respect for each man’s point of view. Along with this basic belief, group members should develop a social sensitivity toward the group and its members. This social sensitivity (the understanding of individual personality traits and social interactions) should enable group members to determine and respond to the concerns, desires, and needs of the group and its members. The ability to see beyond one’s own needs to the wider range of needs of other group members and the group as a whole may well be the most important step in the establishment of a permissive group atmosphere.
We have seen how each individual brings certain characteristics which are peculiarly his own to the group. These include his interests, his abilities, his desires or wishes, as well as his blocks and frustrations and his adjustments to them – in other words his “personality.” We have come to think of all these items of individuality as forces which contribute to the dynamics of the group. In addition to these forces (which may be said to be the property of the persons involved), certain other forces seem to develop as a result of interaction between individuals. These are a property of the group as a whole. The summation, integration, and resolution of all these forces have been labeled the internal dynamics of the group.
If use of the term dynamics tends to become repetitious it is because it has developed as the only word which connotes all the things implied in its use – that is, the energies and forces derived, both from the individuals and from their interaction with each other, and the summation and resolution of these forces into active as opposed to static behavior.
It will be remembered where the outline of ideas concerning group behavior was discussed, that these ideas were divided into those involving the group, the goals, and the means. The internal dynamics, under that framework, was regarded as a function of the group and will continue to be so regarded. However, much of what will later be considered under goals and techniques also comes under the heading of internal dynamics. The dynamic qualities which go to make up group action are not solely the property of the group but also are an essential part of goal selection and orientation as well as of methods.
These ideas cannot be neatly pigeonholed into specific compartments. No matter how the various components are labeled, there will always be cross-reacting, overlapping, and spill-over. For that reason the forces of the group which go to make up the internal dynamics will be discussed under a series of subheads which do not necessarily carry equal value or at times even seem to be related. Certainly they will not be mutually exclusive. The list will be far from exhaustive, but will be detailed enough to point the way for the reader to create his own concept for its expansion. We will consider group size, group atmosphere, group identification, and qualities of homogeneous or heterogeneous composition. Also under study will be communication within the group, participation, the leadership pattern, and the kind of human relation skills present. The definition of roles, the kinds of roles needed for productivity, the objectives sought, and the activities chosen will all come under discussion in this chapter. All these will be influenced by the standards of operation and the degrees of social controls under which the group functions. Finally, the matter of group evaluation, while a specific force, will need to encompass all the foregoing aspects.
These various factors exist in all groups and many of them are immediately apparent. At any given time certain of them may be so obscure as to be considered latent, if present at all. Often they will be operating at such a low level of consciousness that only definitive objective consideration of the part they play will bring them into observable focus. For that reason a series of questions to be asked regarding any group has been included under each of the several subheads.
The forces which will be described are at the disposal of all group members as well as specified group leaders. Recalling our concept of leadership and recognizing that in the democratic group all members carry both responsibility and capacity for leadership, this subject will not be specifically discussed further in this chapter. Along with goals and techniques its elaboration is carried out elsewhere.
With the above qualifications we can now consider a selected battery of forces. Their general nature can be indicated by a commonly understood word or phrase expounded and extended for our purposes by the discussion. This somewhat detailed discussion has two purposes: (1) reporting the general principles regarding each as modern research has revealed them; and (2) the establishment of a framework for the analysis of groups such as our own.
One of the most important internal forces in group participation is the personal and psychological involvement of individuals in the affairs of the group. We generally think of group participation as an overt, observable expression through speech or actions.
However, there are many subtler behavior patterns in terms of gestures, attitudes, or manners that constitute participation. We often think of participation as member involvement through speaking and entering into the discussion. We may think in terms of the breadth of participation – how many group members take part. We may think again of the intensity of participation – how often various individuals take part or how emotionally involved they become.
We may think of participation patterns – how people respond to each other. When one person enters the discussion, is he usually followed by certain others? Do a few people monopolize the discussion, or is there opportunity for all to participate? Do we help everyone participate? Is the participation pattern leader-centered or distributed throughout the group?
We may also think of participation in the sense of attending meetings, being on committees, being officers, helping finance, being on work groups, washing dishes, or writing publicity.
Research seems to indicate that individual and group productivity is related to the opportunities provided for member participation. These may include setting goals, deciding on means of attaining goals, and other aspects of discussion and decision making. Even when an individual’s ideas do not agree with the final group decision, he is much happier when he has had an opportunity to participate and express himself in the decision-making process.
Participation in the analysis and decision-making process results in less resistance to change, lower turnover in group members, greater productivity, and greater satisfaction with the group and group membership. Decision making by representatives from the group or careful explanation of decisions made by others is not acceptable substitutes for member participation in decisions. The more a member participates, the more favorable are his attitudes toward the group and the greater his feeling of concern for and identity with the group.
Those members who participate the most are those who understand the basic purposes and function of the group, have clearly in mind the group’s expectations of its members, feel secure in playing their member roles, and can see how their member roles contribute to the over-all purpose and functioning of the group. They also derive satisfaction from their participation.
We may think of communication as the process whereby we convey ideas, sentiments, or beliefs to others. Though we usually envision communication in terms of speech or language we may also communicate by visual representations, gestures, and imitation. Language, however, constitutes the chief form of social interaction between humans. Through this medium we learn to know people, share experiences, ideas, sentiments, and beliefs. Hence we define, diagnose, and solve our common problems.
Many group problems result from the inability of leaders or group members to communicate with other group members. We mean to say one thing but perhaps say quite another. We assume everyone understands us or our point of view. The same words may mean different things to different people. A slight inflection or emphasis may be interpreted by others much differently than was intended. The meaning of a facial expression or a body gesture may be completely misinterpreted. It seems that the old axiom about army orders applies equally well to group communication, “If it can be misunderstood, it will be misunderstood.”
In heterogeneous groups – where there are people with different backgrounds, occupations, formal education, and levels of communication skills – it is particularly important that each group member makes sure he is communicating with all other group members.
Group members tend to feel left out and unsure of themselves when they do not have two-way communication. Even when acts of hostility are communicated, there seems to be less resentment between the sender and the receiver when there is firm understanding on both sides.
Where there is the desire to change the attitudes and subsequent behavior of group members, two-way communication in formal or informal discussions tends to be more effective than lecture or direct order from above.
A group member is more productive when he feels that he has access to relevant information. Of special importance is communication on matters that directly affect him and the definition of his role.
Those groups that are most productive have a more adequate communication network set up than those that are less productive. There is higher group participation, productivity, and satisfaction when members feel they have the right to enter into discussion and where means are provided for adequate give and take between leaders and other group members.
Successful supervisors and leaders often achieve their results by paying attention not only to the members as individuals, but to the relationships, interactions, and communications within the group.
When formal communications are suppressed or ignored, informal lines of communication usually appear. In organizations where there is dominating leadership the informal organization structures that arise often have goals that conflict with the goals of the formal group structure. For instance, a subgroup that feels its lines of communication are blocked may take up the goal of making it difficult for the leader or getting rid of him.
In most group situations a decrease of interaction will bring about a decrease in the strength of interpersonal feelings and sentiments and will decrease member identity with the group. In groups that have a rigid status system, communication between status levels seems to serve as a substitute for real mobility toward higher levels. The results of many studies show the necessity of trying to communicate in the language that other group members can understand and accept.
If we hold to the concept that objectives are direction givers, then we must define and analyze them until each word used in stating them helps make them clear and definite. Generalities may create some initial interest, but only specific statements challenge thinking and facilitate planning and action on the part of a group and its members.
Several standards may be used to judge the usefulness of objectives. An organization might judge their objectives by the following questions:
- Are objectives stated in terms which identify the people or group concerned, the kind of behavior or behavior changes expected of the people involved, and the content or area of life in which this behavior is to operate?
- Are objectives dynamic – likely to promote action on the part of the group?
- Are objectives compatible with the general aims of the group or organization?
- Are objectives achievable considering the level of maturity of the group or organization and permitted by the resources available to the group?
- Are objectives developmental – will they lead the group to constantly higher levels of achievement?
- Are objectives varied enough to meet the needs of individuals within the group?
- Are objectives limited enough in number to avoid undue diffusion of effort within the organization?
- Can objectives be evaluated – can evidence of actual progress be secured?
- Were objectives cooperatively determined – was the group as a whole involved in the determination and acceptance of them?
Along with an understanding of the levels of objectives, consideration needs to be given to the form and wording of the statement of objectives. A common error is to state as objectives things which people on the various planned programs are going to do for the group. This might be to show how to refinish furniture, to show how to use insulation materials properly, or to present the juvenile delinquency problem. These topic ideas may indicate accurately what the person presenting the program plans to do, but they are not group objectives. Group goals should be statements of what is to be accomplished by or with the group, what is to happen to members of the group, or what the group is expected to do.
The real purpose of a group is not to have certain persons perform activities. It may be to bring about changes in the group and its members, or, if it is an action group, to make group decisions and carry out specified action programs. An objective should identify changes to take place in the group or the kind of action expected of the group and its members.
An objective stated as a planned activity fails to indicate the kind of accomplishment expected. The real purposes of a group are not holding a bake sale or a dance. Instead, such activities are usually a means of accomplishing the group’s purposes or objectives. For example, a bake sale is a short-run activity which may raise funds for the intermediate goal of providing a scholarship. This is directed at the ultimate goal of improving the educational level of our citizens. Groups, if they are to be most efficient, must be careful to choose those short-run means-ends complexes (activities) which are not only consistent with, but also positively oriented toward, the intermediate and long range goals of the group.
Sometimes objectives are stated as general topics or content areas to be handled by the group. Statements of this kind do not specify what is expected of the group. Thus, in a group concerned with health, the objectives might be stated by listing such topics as sanitation, vaccination, or health insurance. A well-stated objective indicates the kind of changes desired in the group and its members, or the action sought. Behavioral changes can be made in group members by changing their knowledge, understandings, skills, interests, appreciations, and attitudes. Objectives of an action group should identify the kind of action expected and the specific end to be accomplished. A group objective is stated with sufficient clarity if a member can describe or illustrate the kind of behavior or action his group is expecting to accomplish.
Another way in which objectives are sometimes stated is in the form of generalized patterns of behavior. Such statements fail to indicate specifically the area of life or the activity to which the behavior is related. For example, one may find objectives that state: “To develop broad interests;” or “To develop desirable social attitudes.”
While these indicate the kind of change expected of the group members, it is doubtful if such highly generalized objectives could be very useful to a group. It is necessary to specify more definitely the content area to which this behavior applies, or the situation of the group and its members when such behavior is to be used.
The most useful form for stating objectives is to express them in terms which clearly identify: (1) the people, group, or groups concerned, (2) the kind of behavior or action to be accomplished, and (3) the content or problem area in which this behavior or action is to operate. For example, the following statements of objectives include all three of these elements. The first is an example of an educational objective, the second an action objective.
Objectives stated clearly enough to be useful to a group in planning its program and selecting its activities will need to indicate all three of these elements. When objectives are formulated on this three-dimensional basis they become a concise set of specifications to guide the further development of programs and plans. Once goals and objectives are clearly established, alternative techniques or means for accomplishing them can be explored and decided upon and a purposeful plan of action determined.
Most groups need long-time goals and objectives to give direction to their activities. These goals are often stated at a more general level than the short-run objectives. However, within the general framework of the long-time objectives there should be developed intermediate and short-run objectives. For effective program planning it is often important to state the objectives for a specific meeting or even a segment of a meeting. Short-run and intermediate objectives must be consistent with long-time objectives if the latter are to be accomplished, and they should be logically related and integrated to provide for step-by-step progress toward the long-time objectives.
Groups sometimes adopt general, and often abstract, objectives and then proceed to consider them as immediately and easily achievable. Such objectives, especially for groups having relatively infrequent meetings, will usually not supply the needed direction nor allow for a degree of achievement necessary for group motivation, growth, and development. All groups need some short-run, specific objectives that are achievable. A feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction results from the achievement of any goal. Such objectives help groups to proceed with purpose and in an organized manner; they help insure accomplishment, and permit the identification of evidence for the evaluation of achievement.
Levels of Objectives
It is also helpful to think of objectives on various levels.
Objectives of learning activities in education have been classified into levels and are marked by grade promotion and graduation. In considering objectives for groups and group members, it is helpful to make a similar classification.
Objectives based on the needs and interests of group members as individuals are usually very specific. Examples might include learning to speak more effectively, or increasing understanding of a teen-age son or daughter.
Other objectives may be based on the needs and interests of a group or organization. These are group rather than individually oriented and require the efforts of people working together. Some examples might be to develop favorable public relations with other local service clubs, to secure a new minister, to double the membership of the community club.
Objectives based on the needs and interests of the community, county, state, or nation are dependent upon the joint efforts of several groups and organizations. Their objectives might include inaugurating a housing development program for low-income families, bringing about rural and urban understanding of the zoning problems of a growing city, or county school reorganization.
General and remote objectives – the all-inclusive aims of society – are so broad they could serve as an umbrella for most groups and organizations. They might include “strengthening democracy,” and insuring the good life for all people.
The needs of individuals and of society must be joined in such a way that both can be met reasonably well. In any group, the relative importance and relationship of the individual member and his objectives and the group and its objectives need to be recognized and understood. One way to visualize this relationship is to consider two circles partially overlapping (Fig. 8.1). One of these can represent the objectives and goals of the individual member of a group < Circle I). The other circle can represent the objectives and goals of the group (Circle G). If these circles overlap, then an individual’s objectives and the group’s objectives are partially the same (Area C) and partially not the same.
The circle representing the goals and objectives of the individual is larger than that representing the group because it is recognized that the interests of an individual member are varied and only a part of them can be met by membership in a single group. Most groups are organized around a relatively few specific interests common to all members.
Individual and group goals and objectives overlap considerably for some members (Case B) and very little for certain members in some groups (Case A). If the overlapping is relatively large, as in B, there should be strong individual member motivation. If this situation exists the groups’ chances for goal accomplishment will be improved providing there is appropriate choice of means. This same concept of overlap of group and community goals and objectives is appropriate in any consideration of goals and objectives that are more inclusive than just for anyone specific group.
In the actual operation of groups, objectives are a rather complex interwoven network. Sometimes all levels are involved. At times, objectives seem hidden – even lost. Every group periodically needs to review and re-identify its objectives and classify them into their appropriate levels. All objectives must be consistent and compatible at any level just as immediate or short-run goals must be consistent and compatible with intermediate and more ultimate objectives.
Another pattern of forces at play within each group is created by other affiliations of its individual members. Group members may belong to other groups such as family, church, lodges, friendship groups, clique groups, and unions. An individual’s participation in any group is based upon his evaluation of the relative importance of the group’s goals and objectives as seen in terms of his personal goals and objectives; i.e., his value system or philosophy of life.
Every individual desires security, recognition, response, and new experience. The relative emphasis he places on these desires is based upon his own experiences which are reflected in his personal value system. The time and energy he gives to any group is relative to his personal evaluation of how much that group satisfies these desires in comparison with other groups of which he is a part or other things which he might do with his time. This is not to imply that this is a calculated rational process for all individuals or that any individual goes through this rational process in all instances.
Time is usually a scarce resource. The degree to which an individual participates in any group depends upon the alternative uses he has for his time. Usually one participates in groups offering the greatest opportunity to maximize the satisfaction of one’s basic desires. Desired satisfactions are based upon a personal value system. Thus, the affiliation patterns of group members affect the degree of identity, involvement, and participation in any specific group.
As a result of group participation, individuals become identified in the over-all status pattern of the community. It is a two-way process. Middle-class people tend to associate in middle-class groups; people who associate in middle-class groups become identified as middle-class people; and groups become identified as middle-class because most of their members are middle-class – and so the process evolves.
Groups are usually not completely class bound. They tend to contain a small proportion of members from the class immediately beneath them – often leaders in that class. One way in which an individual moves up the class system is by gaining acceptance in groups which are identified with a class above him. A group may contain members from the social level immediately above its class identity. The research evidence is that few groups include members from more than three strata in their communities.
A group must have social justification in terms of the over-all values of the community if it is to continue to exist and have status. It must have certain goals and objectives related to community goals and objectives. In many cases groups participate in certain kinds of activities to secure this type of social justification from the community. In this sense an external force has affected their group functioning.
Understanding External Forces
Group members wishing to understand the external forces affecting their groups in the total community picture should ask themselves the following questions:
- How well does this group conform to the community value system, i.e. :
- Are its goals and objectives consistent with community goals and objectives?
- Do its methods of operation conform to community norms?
- How important to the group is this conformity?
- Does the group have extra-community organizational connections? If so, what is the nature of the extra-community organizational value system? Is it consistent with the community value system and expectations?
- What are the other associations of the group members?
- How do the members look upon this group:
- How do they define its goals, objectives, and limitations?
- How important is the group to them in relation to the other groups of which they are a part?
- What is the group’s status in the community in relation to the other existing groups?
- What does the community expect of the group:
- In terms of goals, objectives, accomplishments, areas of responsibility and activity?
- In terms of how the group goes about its tasks?
Answers to these questions should give some insights into the external dynamics that may be affecting group functioning. Also, one can reasonably estimate the community response to any specific action which the group might wish to take.
A skill may be thought of as the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively. It is a developed or acquired ability. The knowledge referred to in this case is, of course, the knowledge of human relations – working with people and getting along with people. Too often it is assumed that since we have lived all our life with people, we must be proficient in human relations skills. Most of us, for example, have at least the minimum ability to disagree with another without creating open hostility. However, the difference between these socially accepted minimum skills and the skills needed for efficient group member functioning is great.
It is recognized that it is the individuals in a group who are the possessors of the human relations skills. Different members in a group possess different levels of understanding and ability in human relations. It should also be obvious that different groups have different average levels of human relations skills. Mature groups, in time, often learn how to work together. They learn what techniques, programs, and divisions of labor work for them as a group and in this sense may be said to have developed a group human relations skill. The degree of such skill possessed by the group may place restrictions on the attainable objectives for the group and the speed with which the group may accomplish those objectives. Of special importance to us in this book is the fact that different levels of human relations skills often place limitations on what techniques may be employed in a given group and on how the techniques that are employed may be used. Thus, the level of human relations skills, actual and potential, is another force that must be taken into account as we work in groups.
For instance, there are certain human relations skills needed to be a good moderator of a panel. First there must be an understanding of what a panel is and what purposes it might serve if used. There must be the skills needed in working with panel members prior to the presentation: to define the problem, set the general limits of discussion, and secure agreement on general procedure. The moderator must quickly define the problem for the audience and set an atmosphere for free and easy exchange of ideas among the panel members. As the panel moves forward, skills are needed to make sure the panel members are communicating with each other and the audience, that the different points of view are being presented, that areas are being summarized and closed off, and new areas opened up. Lack of such a skilled moderator may call for study and training on the part of group members, it may require bringing in someone from outside the group to moderate, or it may necessitate choosing another technique that requires fewer or different human relations skills.
It is accepted that the group has the responsibility of “helping its members grow.” In one sense this means that group members must be aware of the level of the human relations skills of the individuals in the group and help them develop understandings and create social situations in which they may develop these necessary human relations skills.
These basic understandings and skills needed for good human relations can be learned and communicated. Studies in industry, the classroom, among voluntary leaders, and in workshops and conferences have demonstrated that these understandings and skills can be communicated to individuals and groups and that their application will lead to higher productivity and morale in groups. It also has been demonstrated that certain limited specific human relations principles and skills can be taught in a relatively short time so that individuals may quickly perform some functions with a relatively high degree of proficiency. The successful training of discussion leaders, recorders, resource people, and observers for specific functions in conferences or workshops has been used to secure this type of evidence.
Leaders who understand and facilitate good human relations in their groups are most successful. Some studies suggest that it is more important for leaders to understand and be skillful in human relations, individual motivation, and group process, than to be highly proficient in the subject matter under discussion.
Group member motivation, participation, productivity, and satisfaction are greater when group members possess a relatively high level of human relations skills. There seems to be more group and task oriented activity, rather than personal centered activity when members know and can apply human relations principles.
Industrial studies have shown that from the point of view of both production and worker satisfaction, those supervisors are most successful who give a large proportion of their time to their supervisory function, especially to the interpersonal relations aspect of their jobs. Supervisors in lower producing sections are more likely to spend their time in tasks which men under them should be performing or in the paperwork aspects of their jobs.
It has also been determined that many individuals feel they do not have adequate human relations skills to become members of formal groups. Few people belong to only one organization. They either belong to none (about 40 per cent of the American people) or belong to two or more. Once they cross the threshold and realize they have at least the minimum human relations skills needed, they join several groups. Even among those in groups, one of the important blocks to participation is fear on the part of the individual that he does not have sufficient human relations skills to participate successfully. In some cases this fear and frustration leads to other types of activity – detrimental to group functioning – so that he may get recognition from the group.
Knowledge of human relations is becoming recognized more and more as a science rather than as a group of common sense generalizations. It is also becoming recognized that once people understand the existing principles of human relations they can be taught to apply them with skill rather than learn them in the trial and error method of the past.
Most people think motivating employees is largely about pay. This is a simplistic view, which isn’t particularly helpful for team leaders and managers who are trying to get the most out of their people in challenging times.
Consider this list of motivators:
- Give employees authority along with responsibility. It is easy to tell an employee they are responsible for accomplishing a particular task or goal. It is easy to say they will be held accountable if they don’t succeed. The hard part is, giving up a measure of control so that the employee has a certain degree of authority.
- People want and need to be recognized. It is no different than when you were in third grade and you received a gold star or had your name prominently listed for some classroom accomplishment. It felt great then, and it feels just as good now. Sometimes managers fail to understand the need to recognize accomplishments (no matter how small they seem to be) of team members.
- Keep employees in the information loop. Make sure you let your people know about critical organizational accomplishments, challenges or opportunities. Being informed gives employees a feeling of ownership. All too often, managers let their people know when it is too late. This causes people to feel more like victims than participants.
- Provide direct, personal feedback to employees as quickly as possible — preferably within 24 hours. Most people really want to know what their manager thinks of their work. Additionally, the more detailed the constructive feedback is, the better employees will respond to it. Handwritten comments signed by the manager are usually best, but providing email communications works effectively as well.
- Other motivators include celebrating employee birthdays, anniversaries and work-related milestones. In addition, social and recreational activities, including employee softball or bowling leagues, creates a sense of togetherness and team spirit.
- Saying “thank you” on a consistent basis really motivates people. It doesn’t cost anything, takes little or no time, and leaves a lasting impression.
Everyone pays lip service to democracy. It has become a “status” word and anything which can attach itself to the word thereby attains status. Surely what the Russian Premier means when he alludes to a “democracy” is a far cry from what the President of the United States has in mind when he uses the same phrase. Each may sincerely believe that his is the only “true faith” and that his concept of democracy is the only valid one. Even within our own national culture there are many meanings of the word. Hence a definition of some length and detail is necessary.
The Term “Democracy”
The Greek root Demos, the people, is combined with the word Kratos, authority, to imply that all authority stems from the people. Under such a definition of democracy all who must abide by rules, regulations, and controls are entitled to a voice in their creation.
Democracy, then, is the means by which individuals are able to determine what they may ultimately expect in the way of freedom without impinging upon the rights of others. The degree of democracy achieved is not measured by the degree of such freedom to act, but by the extent to which those whose acts are thus abridged possess the authority to do the abridging.
It is right and proper that we should return to the founding fathers for the origins of our own democracy. Too frequently this means we believe that they presented it to us complete, with power steering and brakes, automatic turn signals, and electronic headlight dimmers. Not so. Our present concept of democracy is a product of many years of evolutionary growth. As a matter of fact it probably would horrify most of the founding fathers.
In general, these creators of our political system were obsessed with the idea of personal and political liberty and were not at all interested in democracy. Many of them were monarchists, or at least oligarchists and our nation developed along those lines until the direction was changed by the one man who did have an abiding faith in democracy, Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson recognized the evolving nature of democracy, the necessity for an ever broadening base, and the importance of universal education. He believed in the perfectibility of man. But let us permit him to speak for himself; few have said these things better:
To better appreciate the expanding concept of democracy it is worthwhile to examine the context in which the founding fathers spoke when they referred to “the people” or to “the electorate.” We have become accustomed to thinking of the beginnings of our democracy in the New England town meeting, or in the deliberative bodies of the various colonies. We seldom remember that these groups were made up of “the people” only as they were freemen as opposed to slaves, only if they were not indentured or apprenticed, only if they could read and write, and only if they owned real property. Most of all, no recognition as citizens was accorded women!
Even Jefferson, with all his insight, idealism, and faith in the future, was unable to project his ideas nearly so far as we have come. He did not believe that man would ever become truly responsible in his behavior unless he owned property. When he made the Louisiana Purchase this was uppermost in his mind, for he foresaw a vast nation of small landholders. Even his advanced thinking failed to visualize the day when ownership of an automobile or of common stocks would serve the same purpose. He surely did not envisage the possibility that vested rights such as pension security or collective bargaining would do the same thing.
We have discussed chiefly the political aspects of democracy, since the origins of the term are in our political past. As democracy has grown and expanded it has become more and more apparent that this concept invades every aspect of our lives, not only in our political thinking but in the way we carry out all our joint ventures.
Free men everywhere work hard to maintain their common institutions: their churches, schools, businesses, and governments. Many of the most important activities relevant to solving common problems take place at the community level – often by means of the social structure which we call the formal democratic group. The essence of democracy may be observed in these groups – small entities composed of people who interact in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. It is a part of the American dream that by the devotion of time and energy the group can solve problems and satisfy needs with which the solitary individual could not hope to cope.
This penchant of the American people was first documented in the early 1800′s when Alexis de Tocqueville, that astute observer of American life, wrote:
A citizen may conceive of some need which is not being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his neighbor. Then what happens? A committee comes into existence, and then the committee begins functioning on behalf of their need, and you won’t believe this, but it’s true . . . all of this is done without reference to any bureaucrat. All of this is done by the private citizens on their own initiative.’
If then, we have somehow approached the true meaning of democracy, and if it is best implemented by the formal democratic group, then how may this group be described?
It is the voluntary association of a group of equals into an entity capable of action – and recognized as such by both members and nonmembers. Further, it is a social structure within which the members partake of a pattern of interaction based on the premise that each individual has both the right and the responsibility to contribute to its tasks.
Such a definition, by its nature very broad, only begins to describe the formal democratic group. Usually such an organization has a name; often there is a constitution and set of bylaws. Elected officers are the general rule, regularly scheduled meetings are held, and a wide variety of activities are carried out. There are literally thousands of such groups and many examples come readily to mind.
It is probable that without leadership no group can produce worthwhile action in the direction of its goals. But what is leadership? This word, like democracy, means many things to many people.
Just as our concept of democracy is a growing and expanding one, so is there a parallel growth and development of the meaning of leadership. The expansion of the democratic principle has demanded that new types of leadership arise.
It is easy to credit a leader with both the successes and failures of a group. Perhaps the true virtues, or faults, were those of the group itself. Many believe that the leader casts his personality over the group, but more frequently the opposite situation occurs. Much of this vagueness arises from the looseness of the meaning of the term leader in the English language. It is used to designate both one who commands and one who guides. In actual practice these may be as widely at variance as the chairman of the P.T.A. meeting and a Marine platoon leader in combat. Yet both are leaders.
The myth of the “born leader” is one common idea of the past which will not stand up under modern research. It was no doubt perpetuated by those with hereditary authority and was given support by the frequency with which sons succeeded fathers as leaders. One must remember that these sons were given training in leadership almost from birth. It was no accident that Aristotle went from Athens to Macedon to instruct the young Alexander. It was planned that way. In the early days of our culture, leadership was of necessity confined to the few, since knowledge and freedom from superstition were only available to a few.
Frazer, in The Golden Bough, states that the rise of despotic leaders was a necessary concomitant to emergence from savagery, since in primitive societies there was no mechanism by which large numbers of persons could become simultaneously enlightened. Hence history is replete with stories of the military leader who seized power and subsequently affected great civil and economic reforms. So the “great man” theory of history arose, culminating in the eulogies of Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Only more recently have historians begun to question this concept and to consider whether leaders might have automatically arisen in response to forces at play too complex for man to control. Even Toynbee – popular protagonist for the interplay-of-forces idea of history – concedes Frazer’s point that leaders must arise, and at least in the emergence from savagery to civilization they must be despotic.
Many great leaders of the past were military leaders. The military leader functions in a predetermined organization so complete that all the duties and responsibilities of each level of leadership are spelled out in advance. The “chain of command” is inviolate, and within such a framework an individual with very few qualities of leadership may function efficiently and even effectively. This is the entire basis of the bureaucratic organization. Many organizations follow this pattern, though the military one is the most characteristic. The leader of such a group has been very aptly termed the bureaucratic leader. In our modern organizations, particularly governmental, he often seems to be the indispensable man, even when ostensibly and basically other philosophies of leadership should prevail.
Another type has been termed the passive leader. He has developed a following because he happens to possess certain talents, skills, or traits which are much admired, not by any deliberate effort toward leadership on his part. Contemporary examples of such leadership might include Mickey Mantle in sports or Pablo Picasso in the world of art.
The leader who achieves his role almost entirely through personal magnetism has attracted the most interest in the writing of the past and still dominates some of the most fascinating chapters in history. He has been called the personal power or charismatic leader. All the great religions were founded by leaders of this ilk and many political leaders have possessed the same ability. Most dictators begin as this kind of leader, though it soon becomes necessary for them to solidify their power by developing a bureaucracy. They are followed because of their original attractiveness or “charisma” and most of their followers soon become convinced that such leadership will maximize the ends which they seek.
In a group of equals working together to solve a mutual problem, another type of leadership will emerge. Ideally, and most commonly in actual practice, this will be democratic leadership.
The democratic leader evolves out of the group of which he is a part, rather than by creating a following of his own. There are inevitably those whose ideas influence the others more than theirs are in turn influenced by others. In such a group a tradition builds up that certain individuals are the most capable for certain tasks. When a crisis arises the membership turns to these individuals more readily than to untried personnel. These members are leaders, and they are democratic leaders.
In general, a leader of a democratic group is one who epitomizes the values and norms of his group. The group considers that his judgment is most in line with that of the membership, that the alternatives which he proposes fit in with the value system of the group. Often it may be said that he usually puts the well-being of the group ahead of his own desires where they conflict.
The democratic leader has the ability to perceive the direction in which the group is moving and to move in that direction more rapidly than the group as a whole. His foresight into the means and ends which will help the group is superior and for this reason he is chosen, or becomes a leader.
Democracy moves slowly. One of the reasons for this is that a democratic leader is seldom one who is far superior to his group. Groups which form tend originally to be made up of peers, or equals. If such a group happens to consist largely of average citizens, it is unlikely that they will select a member who has far superior qualifications as their leader. They will select one who is somewhat ahead of them in qualifications, but if the gap is too great they fail to communicate and thus fail to make use of this leadership material which exists within their group. In our general culture the distrust of one of superior ability is anti-intellectualism, and it pervades all levels of group behavior. This tendency has made some persons impatient with democracy, but as expressed in the previous chapter, the alternatives are worse in the long run. Someone has expressed the problem like this: “In a democracy the ideal solution to a problem is almost never achieved, but some solution is eventually reached, and it is a solution with which everyone can live.”
Pure types of leadership seldom exist. An historical anecdote may help to point up this fact. In the summer of 1832 there was a minor Indian uprising along the Mississippi known as the Black Hawk War. As was customary at the time a company of volunteers was raised and according to the custom of those more democratic days they held an election and chose their captain. Thus the young man selected was obviously a democratic leader, but by virtue of the military organization now became a bureaucratic leader. The interesting speculation is whether or not the soldiers of that company really recognized the personal magnetism of the man who was to become one of the greatest “charismatic” leaders in American history, Abraham Lincoln.
Up to this point the personalized term leader and the abstraction leadership have been more or less intermingled without regard to certain subtle differences. Paul Pigors, in his book Leadership or Domination, says: “Leadership is a process of mutual stimulation, which by successful interplay of relevant individual differences, controls human energy in pursuit of a common cause.” If this is a logical definition, then a leader is anyone whose ideas are helping to give direction toward the common goals of the group. Or to paraphrase once more: An individual is a leader in any social situation in which his ideas and actions influence the thoughts and behavior of others.
It may readily be seen that acceptance of this concept de-emphasizes the leader and emphasizes leadership. And in the highest development of the democratic group leadership is not concentrated, but is diffused throughout the membership. The greater the degree of this diffusion, the more effectively democratic is the group.
Such a view of leadership has little to do with the formally elected leaders of the small democratic group, the chairmen, presidents, and other officers. In a group of this kind these officers recognize that their formal leadership is situational and that other group members may perform functions equal to or superior to their own.
If leadership is, as we have said, the process of influencing people by ideas, then there is no limit to the number of leaders that can function within a group. In fact the more the better because the very act of leadership, in whatever form observed, develops initiative, creativity, and mature responsibility.
Furthermore, leadership of this kind is not a mystic something or other that one individual has and another has not. It is learned behavior and anyone can improve himself in it by proper study and application. Such leadership is also situational and in the ideal group will shift from person to person depending upon the task at hand.
In a truly democratic group, leadership is diffused.
Every member is a leader whenever he contributes an idea that is needed at a particular time. Leadership passes from person to person as each member contributes something needed in the process of achieving group goals.
It has been stated that the democratic group succeeds on the assumption that people, given the necessary facts, can make better decisions than others can make for them. One of the weaknesses of group democratic action is embodied in the phrase “if given the facts.” All too often decisions are made emotionally, on a basis of ignorance. This raises another point. Since every member of a democratic group is a leader or a potential leader it becomes his duty to inform himself regarding the problems of that group. If he is to make intelligent decisions and suggestions for action which will provide leadership for his group he must accept responsibility. Responsibility calls for knowledge: knowledge of the group and its goals, knowledge of alternate means by which the goals may be sought, and general knowledge of the area in which the group operates. Thus we come full circle in pointing up the relationship between democracy and education.
Proper answers must often be sought beyond the group – from experts and resource people. Willingness to seek outside information is often a true mark of maturity in either an individual or a group. The anti-intellectual approach tends to belittle special knowledge and ability, to the loss of everyone.
Democracy is vitally important in American life. Many of the decisions which culminate in national policy begin at the “grass roots,” where ideas tend to originate. If we are to have maximum benefits from this fact every individual should have some insight into the processes of leadership. He should recognize the great importance of having every group member feel himself a leader, or at least a potential leader, with a willingness to accept the responsibilities this entails.