Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 4, Lesson 10
The Group Leader Should Not Be a Member of the Group
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Note: Whenever "group" or "team" is used, it can mean "group", "team", or "family".
In the purest model of group leadership, the group leader must not be a member of the group. The purpose of the group leader not being a member of the group is to allow (a) differing responsibilities and (b) the objective distance necessary for these leadership responsibilities.
The group leader, the group, and each group member all have different responsibilities. The group leader has to help the group and its members understand these different roles.
The group’s responsibilities relate to accomplishment of the group purpose. For example, the group works toward studying the Bible to help its members live more and more obediently for Jesus Christ.
Group members contribute to the group effort. Each member does his or her part to help the group study the Bible to help its members live more and more obediently for Jesus Christ , including helping the group take good care of its members.
On the other hand, the group leader does not work on the group purpose of studying the Bible to help its members live more and more obediently for Jesus Christ. The group leader spends his or her energy on the group, helping it effectively study the Bible to help its members live more and more obediently for Jesus Christ, including helping the group take good care of its members.
If the group leader is a member of the group, there is no one to stand off and observe the group at work and help the group become more effective.
Therefore, the responsibilities of group leadership require a high degree of personal distance from the primary concerns of the group and its members. A group leader who tries to be both a member and the leader will often not be able to have sufficient distance for the required objectivity. This aspect is less critical around minor difficulties the group will face. However, those things that can really harm or even kill a group are problems often only seen by those leaders not blinded by personal involvement.
In other words, the group leader needs to be far enough away from the trees to be able to see the forest. The leader must be able to stand back and look at the group’s process to be of critical help to the group.
While the group is thinking about how to achieve the purpose, the group leader must be thinking of how the group is doing, what barriers to the group’s success exist, and a host of other tasks clearly not associated with participating as a member of the group. It is quite helpful for the leader to ask the group to let him or her lead the group in the sense of a coach rather than an active member of the group. He or she can explain that such leadership is absolutely necessary if the group is to become successful and the group members are to grow in their own abilities.
If the group leader sees himself or herself as a group member, energy and attention will be drained away from helping the group become a most effective entity. He or she will begin helping with the Bible study or group maintenance functions (example: encouraging group members to implement the Scripture they are studying). The focus on the group will be lost or minimized.
There are many examples where the group leader is not intricately involved in the work of the group. Sports gives us many examples. Think of a basketball team and its coach. The coach is clearly not a member of the basketball team. He or she does not actually get out on the floor and work with others to score points. In fact, there are so many aspects of team functioning that sports team usually have more than one coach. There are just too many leadership responsibilities for the basketball coach to do team member responsibilities.
Jesus was not a member of the group He led. We talk of "Jesus and his disciples."
Obviously, a group therapist (like myself) is not a member of the group of people working on helping one another get over their depression.
When the Leader Needs to Be a Member or is Somewhat of a Member
But, there are some groups where the leader must be a member of the group. The separation from member status that allows objective observation is compromised. But, it can't be helped in the family and some other groups.
The family is an example where the leader (parent) also has to be a member. If the family is planning a vacation, for example, the father or the single-parent will first need to see that the family works together to design a vacation, complete with the right attitudes, that fits the family purpose (help one another enjoy life and become all that we can be). When the parent jumps in with his or her own desires for the vacation, the objective observation of the family can be lost.
Most churches think that the leader of a Bible study must also be a member of the group. This is not true, but may be necessary in a group of couples. However, is a person leads a Bible study group that meets every other week, he or she can be a member studying the Bible in another group led by someone else. That is the preference, because a leader sitting back from the Bible discussions can help the group toward much more spiritual growth.
The Group and Its Members Must Use the Leader as Not a Member of the Group
As it is important for the group leader to not consider herself or himself a member of the group, it is also very important for the group and its members to know that the group leader is not a group member in the strictest sense. The group and its members need to remember that the group leader has many tasks to do to help the group become more and more effective. They need the group leader to help the group become a true group of interdependent people helping one another work toward the group purpose. They also need the group leader to help the group become better and better at doing its tasks, many of which have more to do with being a group than to working on the purpose of the group (e.g., personally supporting one another, overcoming the many barriers that impede progress, etc.). If the group and its members treat the group leader like a group member, they will draw her or him away from these helpful functions.
Because of inadequate models of group leadership, many groups look to the group leader to do tasks that are really the group’s responsibility and which the group and its members can do much better. It is important that the group understands that it has responsibilities for many things traditionally thought of as group leader responsibilities. If the group leaves its tasks to the leader, it will accomplish much less. The group should never be such a passive experience. Many groups fail because the group (and often even the leader) thinks many of the group’s tasks should be done by the leader. At the least, this makes a very weak group. At the worst, it destroys the group and results in a loose collection of people, all doing the minimum, depending on the leader for direction and not working together for coordinated results.
It is much better for the group to realize that it must do almost everything. In fact, the group can eventually do almost everything that a leader does, and do it much better. The group can make its own decisions, teach its members, guide the course of its meetings, make its members feel valued – almost everything many models of group leadership normally assign to the leader.
If the group is to become strong, it must understand that it is responsible for its own success. The group leader cannot be responsible for something that is really only in the group’s control. A grave mistake is believing that good leadership alone brings group success. It is proper leadership plus enormous group effort that brings group obedience and victory!
There are many things for the group leader to do in helping the group reach its maximum effectiveness. But, if the group leader gets trapped in doing the work of the group rather than group leadership responsibilities, only minimal effectiveness will be attained.
Therefore, it is critical that . . .
(a) the group leader not consider himself or herself a member of the group; and
(b) the group and its members not think of the group leader as a member of the group; and
(c) the group leader not do things the group must and can do; and
(d) the group not expect the group leader to do the work of the group.
When the Leader Can Become Almost a Member of the Group
Under excellent leadership, the group will eventually become quite good at doing its tasks without the help of the group leader. The group will then take on more and more responsibility for evaluating its own performance. When this happens, the group leader can act a little more like a true member of the group. The responsibility distinctions will not be so necessary and the need for objectivity by someone personally distant will be diminished. But, if the very successful group has become comfortable with the group leader not being part of the group, there may be no reason to change this aspect of group leadership.
Next, learn how to help a group obey The Togethers of Scripture.
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA