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Leading Lightly

In consensus design and decision making, the role of the group leader is crucial, not only in establishing the overall climate for collaboration but also in the detailed way in which leadership is exercised. Consensus design and decision making is at its best when the solution derives from the talents of all team members and reflects the experience, creativity, and critical thinking of all, not just an average of their contributions, but a genuine synthesis that combines their best. When group leaders, however talented and brilliant, push their own agenda, the quality of teamwork goes down.

The effect of group leadership can be as insidious as it is subtle. Even just expressing an opinion at the wrong time can bias a group and lead to a poorer outcome. Research has shown that merely having leaders delay tossing in their own ideas until after all or most group members have presented theirs will improve the group solutions. That means that a leader who merely speaks too soon is probably degrading the quality of teamwork. Confident leaders, sure that they are right or know best, may cause the most difficulty.


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