The Leaderless Group

Listen to this in Episode 38 of Short Takes here or on your favorite podcast app.

Put this into practice with the SEEING EXERCISE Observing the Leaderless Group. The observation that this exercise teaches should become a constant practice in our leadership, as it allows us to assess the group's natural performance of the functions and determine where our limited time and energy is best spent on interventions.

One of the most interesting thought experiments we do as part of the functional approach to leadership is called the leaderless group. The leaderless group is one that does not have a boss, supervisor, or designated leader. This is unusual, but they do exist; they arise any time a group of people get together to accomplish something without formal authority. There is no one person acting on the functions.

Functional leadership is based on asking, “what does the group need?” rather than, “What does a leader do?” The leaderless group illustrates this by demonstrating the process of work when carried out by the functions without intervention by an authority.

A great example is a group of friends planning a party. The members have a single goal – a great party -- but no formal leader. As a result, the functions of leadership are distributed among the members of the group. At times some people perform aspects of one function, others another function. Responsibility is handed off to each member as the group performs work. By necessity, if the goal of a successful party is reached, then the functions must have been performed by the group. These groups succeed to the de