A leader is the key element that affects the overall group’s success by inspiring members to collaborate to achieve a common goal. The approach that the leader takes to lead a group (i.e., leadership style) plays a significant role in group decision-making process and decision quality. Effective leadership encourages members’ participation in decision-making process, and promotes cooperation and motivation among group members. On the other hand, ineffective leadership, which lacks impartiality, can be a great risk factor for groupthink; a phenomenon refers to poor decision process and decision quality (Chapman, 2006). Groupthink is undesirable for groups because it is detrimental to group development. In order to demonstrate the effect of leadership style on groupthink, the paper will first explain groupthink and the factors that contribute to this phenomenon; then it will discuss the characteristics of different leadership styles and how they affect group’s decision-making process; and finally it will provide several remedies to guard against groupthink in groups.
Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when the group members strive for consensus at the expense of rational decisions. In other words, groupthink takes place in groups in which the group members’ desire for concurrence becomes more important than evaluating problems and solutions realistically (Chapman, 2006). There are several factors that contribute to groupthink, but the two most important ones are directive (i.e., promotional) leadership and the lack of consideration of alternatives (Ahlfinger & Esser, 2001). If the group’s leader is controlling and promoting his or her favored solution without consulting members’ opinions, the group will experience groupthink. In order to avoid groupthink, it is crucial for leaders to encourage critical appraisal and open discussion of the various viewpoints. If the group fails to develop and evaluate alternatives, they will end up with inefficient faulty decisions which would affect their development. Effective decision-making process is possible only when an impartial leader leads the group and encourages participation, collaboration and collective decision-making.
Leadership Style: Authoritarian vs. Participative Leadership
According to the leadership theory by Kurt Lewin (1939), there are different leadership styles that affect group dynamics such as decision-making, effectiveness of group work, communication, collaboration, and etc. The two of leadership styles, authoritarian and participative, are highly related to the concept of groupthink. Groups with autocratic leaders who promote their preferred solutions are more likely to fall into groupthink than groups with non-promotional leaders (i.e. democratic and impartial) (Ahlfinger & Esser, 2001). In other words, groups led by controlling leaders who fail to encourage participation of group members in decision-making process...