Who’s the boss? The role of the leader in groups

With organizations practicing participative management, decision by committee, collaborative strategic planning, employee-driven change, and other initiatives  where consensus is king, tt can be difficult to tell who’s in charge.  Yet we all also know that without the buck stopping somewhere, very little actually gets done.  To address this tension between the need to get things done, and the value to include all voices, it is first important to clarify who’s in charge, and how they are defining their role.

Experts in organization development (OD) suggest that group leaders think about adopting one of these key roles, to start:

  1. Make sure there is balance of among values held by individuals in their group, including his or her own (Hultman and Gellerman, 2002)
  2. Provide the technical expertise related to the situation or problem (Block, 2000).
  3. Manage decision making for the group (Hultman and Gellerman, 2002)
  4. Adopt a consultative  approach, which involves others for input and advice, and the leader retains the power to decide. (Vroom and Vroom, 1973, cited in Bunker and Alban, 2002)

So, which one or combination seem right to you? Which have you seen succeed, fail, or have a neutral impact? We’d all like to hear from you!



  • Block, P. (2000). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
  • Bunker, B. B., & Alban, B. T. (2002). Understanding and using large system interventions. In W. Burke, D. Lake & J. Paine (Eds.), Organization change: A comprehensive reader (pp. 667-682). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Hultman, K., & Gellermann, B. (2002). Balancing individual and organizational values: Walking the tightrope to success. (pp. 97-135). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

About Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann
Global corporate communication, business, and organization behavior executive; author. My blog, DesigningCommunication, offers inspiration, insight, and tips for all professionals who want to express themselves effectively, and lead with integrity.

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