How do we create opportunities for this development to happen? What role do we have at each stage in development of individuals and groups and what options does this role give us as leaders? The top half of this figure illustrates the development process. The bottom half explores the role we have as leaders and how this may have to vary to allow development to occur.
It seems that what is often required initially (on the left of the figure) is a leader who is directive, sets boundaries and parameters that are not negotiable or that the young people have no input into. On the right side of the continuum, is a leader who has become much less directive, where their role is now facilitation of decision making being made by the group. This role involves aspects of power sharing, giving choice, negotiating and building responsibility (Jansen, 2008).
This implies that if we choose to adopt a development model then we must also adopt a contingency or situational leadership model where our style and role varies as the group develops. In reality it is seldom that leaders will give total responsibility to a group, however from the young person’s perspective even a small amount of choice can feel a lot different than no choice at all, which is often the young person’s experience.
How does this model impact our initial leadership starting point with a group? Not all groups start on the less cohesive side of the continuum, some may already have a strong degree of interdependence and maturity in place so a leader may not always begin their leadership style on the directive side either. Some factors that influence the group’s development and can act as indicators of their current development needs may be; the age of young people, the size of group, how well the leader knows the group, the setting and type of activity, prior experience and competence of the group.
The model of situational leadership being described here requires the leader to be tuned into the needs of the group and adapt their style and role to suit the current group needs. It also requires the leader to continually be looking for opportunities to induct the group into taking responsibility for some of the choices in the programme, to share some of their power. It has also suggested that leaders are likely to have a preferred style and that challenges exist when the leadership style required to match the developmental stage is different to this ‘natural’ style. However unless these challenges are met, it is possible and even likely that the leader can in fact impede the development of a group and the individuals within it.