U05: MIA: Leader for small group

Quite the group.

A group is defined as three or more people who interact and are interdependent in the sense that their needs and goals cause them to influence each other (PSY 533, 2017). We are a small group, defined by Pennington as a group between two and up to 30 members (PSY 533, 2017). Small group sizes can differ for each organization; Our group consists of 5 members, and I will refer to our group as the G-Rad group, as we represent the Beacom School of Business graduate programs at the University of South Dakota. Below are some individual differences of each G-Rad group member. Individual differences are the particular aspects of people that make them different from other people (PSY 533, 2017).

Laura, Executive Director of Graduate Programs and Executive Education: rank of Director, mid-50’s, working on her Ph.D., married with one daughter, extensive experience in higher education, believer in traditional hierarchical-style leadership, most of the decisions she makes are supported by research.

Shane, MBA Coordinator: rank of Instructor, late 30’s, earned MBA/JD from University of South Dakota, married with one small son, founded and sold a consulting company in Hong Kong, not very hands-on, has a need to be innovative, fun, and active.

Olivia, MPA Coordinator: rank of Assistant Professor, just turned 29, Ph.D. from University of Texas, zero work experience, extremely intelligent, values being involved with students.

Raleigh, Adviser/Recruiter: obtained MBA at another institution, married with two young girls, infinite amount of institutional knowledge, everyone’s go-to, takes things very personally, doer.

Jamie, Program Assistant: working on MPS degree, single parent to one son, commutes 45 minutes to work, values working 1-on-1 with students, needs to focus on attention to detail, striving to work her way up with long-term goal of teaching.

According to Hybels & Weaver, there are several key characteristics of small groups. To start, small groups have a problem-solving/specific-task orientation (PSY 533, 2017).  The general orientation of the G-Rad group is to serve the Beacom School of Business graduate students. We all work together as a team to admit (or deny) students, get students on the right path toward completing their degree as efficiently as possible, work with students when conflicts arise, provide resources, and serve as a sounding board to students. Small groups can end up narrowly-focused, which leads to limit the perspective of small groups (PSY 533, 2017). In order to avoid this from happening, we often invite others to weigh-in on our group’s thinking or decision.

Small groups are typically more democratic in nature because they have fewer communication channels to monitor, and therefore can focus on high-quality relationships (PSY 533, 2017). The G-Rad group is there to serve all graduate students. Our programs are small enough that we can dedicate ample time to each student’s needs.

Small groups have an appropriate meeting place (PSY 533, 2017). Members of the G-Rad group are located in the same building on campus, and most are located in the same hall. The G-Rad group meets monthly, in a conference room that logistically works for all group members.

Relating to the last small group characteristic, the G-Rad group is cohesive; the bond that links group members together (PSY 533, 2017). We are each there for one purpose: graduate students. At the end of the day, graduate students are the reason we do what we do. Our goal is to put the least amount of stress as possible on our students. Anything we can do to make their time at the University of South Dakota the best experience possible, we do it.

As a very diverse small group, one can imagine that conflict does arise. In small groups, there is an increased chance of conflict of interest (PSY 533, 2017). We all have differing opinions, stances, mindsets, motivators, and values. We work very closely with each other, on a daily basis, and sometimes our differences conflict. The group members’ individual differences play a large role. Individual differences may afford people different opportunities as well as influence how they think and behave (PSY 533, 2017). Everything that each group member has been through and experienced, has shaped them into who they are today.

In small groups, not only can conflict arise, but groupthink can as well. Janis defines groupthink as a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action (PSY 533, 2017). Janis suggests quite a few ways to prevent groupthink, but there is one underlying distinction that provides the foundation for those suggestions: a leader. Even though 3 out of the 5 group members have titles that might crown them as leader, the G-Rad group is missing a clearly-defined leader.

You can see our small group has some work to do!


PSY 533. (2017). L11 Small Groups. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l11-introduction?module_item_id=23063493

PSY 533. (2017). L08 Individual Differences. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l08-introduction?module_item_id=23063446

One Comment

  1. Charline Sylvie Louet November 26, 2017 at 1:45 PM #

    Hi Jamie,

    I enjoyed reading your post and seeing how the psychological theories we learned about apply to your group at work. Similar to yours, the team I work on is also a small group, under 10 employees, but we are also divided into sub-groups, dyads, which in my opinion, has made communication much easier for us when trying to come to a consensus on certain matters. Like yours, one thing that we’ve experienced where I work is groupthink and occasional conflict, which I think stems from the amount of passion we all feel towards our job. What does your team typically do to resolve conflict and to avoid groupthink?

    To build on your point “Individual differences may afford people different opportunities as well as influence how they think and behave (PSY 533, 2017). Everything that each group member has been through and experienced, has shaped them into who they are today”, I read in a paper from Northwestern University “generally speaking, people would prefer to spend time with others who agree with them rather than disagree with them”, (Phillips, Liljenquist, Neale, 2010). This is interesting because if we naturally gravitate to people who think similarly to the way we do, we are unlikely to learn as much as we would in diverse groups. The same study states “the mere presence of diversity in a group creates awkwardness, and the need to diffuse this tension leads to better group problem solving”, meaning that when we are aware of our differences, we may be more conscious and open to working collaboratively through thoughtful communication.


    Phillips, K., Liljenquist, K., & Neale, M. (2010, October 1). Better Decisions Through Diversity. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/better_decisions_through_diversity

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