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  • Writer's picturePhil Cole

The Functions in Action

Do you remember a moment you felt like you had a positive impact upon the group? You may not have had a formal leadership position, but your actions affected the way that others performed their work and combined their efforts as part of the group.


Think about the feelings and actions that you and the group experienced during this moment of successful leadership. Do not apply any frame of reference or model yet, simply focus on remembering the moment and how it took place.

  • What was the group able to accomplish that was different and better in this situation?

  • What visible, real-world actions did you perform that led to this outcome?

  • What impact did these actions have upon the members of the group? Include both visible responses, and your ideas or thoughts about their internal thoughts, emotions, and so on.

  • Why do you think your actions helped the group achieve this success, from a human perspective? What need did your actions meet in the other members that allowed them to achieve this positive outcome?

  • When else do you do these actions, and does it produce the same result? Are there other times when you might try these actions? Is there something that prevents you from doing them more often?

  • Did the group treat you any differently after this event? Did you feel or act differently afterward?


Now apply the functional approach to leadership using the three functions and the definition of leadership as a mental model to understand your experience as a successful leader.

  • What functions were you acting on? What needs of the members of the group did you meet?

  • How did our actions upon these functions create an environment when the members of the group could accomplish something great? How did we bring out the best in the members of the group?

  • Was your change long-lasting? Did it get solidified into the organizational process in a way that continued, or did it occur once or for a short while?

  • What happened to the group in situations like this once you were no longer influencing them?

  • Has the group adopted some or all of the behaviors you performed? What effect did this have on the group’s success?

  • Is this behavior something that you have used again, since that event?

  • How did your success feel at the time? What did we see that the members of the group felt?

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