Leadership and Social Groupings
In-group and Out-Group Membership in Leaders
Group membership in a social context occurs arbitrarily, yet results in certain outcomes that may be favorable or not depending on the group to which one belongs. In any group, the members can be part of either the in-group or out-group. People’s reactions in the group setting will often depend on where they perceive themselves to be (Whitbourne, 2010). For leaders, belonging to either the out- group or in-group can be detrimental to their efficiency in performance due to its capacity to result in biases. A group leader belonging to the out-group, for instance, may find it difficult to influence the members who belong to the in-group. Stereotyping by the in-group members can make it difficult for them to accept directions from their leader. For such a leader, the best approach would be to recognize the arbitrary nature of in-group versus out-group distinctions, develop their own sense of security, and understand that those who may be biased against them do so because they have something to lose.
For group leaders in the in-group, the challenge of influencing others may be their own bias towards the members of the out-group. Unlike the leaders who belong to the out-group, those in the in-group have the power to change the attitude of the in-group members towards those in the out-group. They can achieve this by engaging in practices recommended by Whitbourne (2010). Such practices include putting themselves in the shoes of the out-group members, building their own sense of security, understanding that the groupings are arbitrary, and passing on the lessons to others.
In-group and out-group distinctions follow the social identity theory which asserts that people’s sense of identity depends on their group memberships (Molenberghs et al., 2017). Those in the in-group would thus feel more entitled to certain privileges just by being part of the in-group. Those who do not possess the attributes assigned to in-group members consider themselves as out-group members.
High Task versus High Relations Leaders
Task-oriented or task-focused leadership is one in which the leader is more interested in the completion of tasks to achieve specific objectives. This type of leadership is associated with high emphasis on the structures, processes, and the goals of the organization than on the relationship between people. Due to their focus on tasks high task leaders, when compared to low- task leaders, are more likely to define work and roles explicitly and to be motivated by the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. With task-oriented leadership, therefore, there are high probabilities for organizational performance in terms of goals at the expense of interpersonal relationships. High task leaders, thus, also face employee retention challenges due to their limited interest in the organization.
The outcomes associated with the high task leaders are different from those of the high relations leaders who value benevolence and security as part of the strategy for accomplishing goals. High relations leaders recognize the importance of the people in the organizational setting, and how the people can contribute to goal achievement. They are, therefore, more likely to appreciate an environment that fosters interpersonal relationships.
Values are important to leaders. The shared values become the foundation of a well-knit group and leaders who give priority to interpersonal relationships in a group find this scenario easy to manage. As Porath (2015) posits, developing civility in the workplace is an essential practice towards a consistent performance, which results in security. Good interpersonal relations enhance performance by enabling leaders and followers to solicit feedback about their work from others, and thus improve their performance.
Molenberghs, P., Prochilo, G., Steffens, N.K., Zacher, H. & Haslam, S.A. (2017).The Neuroscience of inspirational leadership: The importance of collective-oriented language and shared group membership. Journal of Management, 43(7), 2168- 2194.
Porath, C. (2015, May 11). The leadership behavior that’s most important to employees. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from hbr.org/2015/05/the-leadership-behavior-thats-most-important-to-employees
Whitbourne, S.K. (2010, December 7). In-groups, out-groups, and the psychology of crowds: Does the in-group out-group bias form the basis of extremism? Psychology Today. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201012/in-groups-out-groups-and-the-psychology-crowds