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Posted By Ted Baumhauer
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What do groups want from their leader(s)? After years of watching groups do initiative problems, like the ones you’d find on a ropes course, I have come to a conclusion. Groups don’t know best. 

I say this because, time after time as groups attack these initiative problems there comes a moment when the group is floundering and someone, or a couple of someones, tells the group what to do.  “Move this way, do it like this” or some other command is issued and the group follows their orders. That’s all fine and good until that idea or line of thinking doesn’t work. Then it is the leader’s fault not the group’s fault. Yet that is exactly what the group wanted, they wanted someone to take charge and tell them what to do. Without input there will be no buy in. So what is a good leader to do?

Rarely does someone step in and control the group conversation and how they work together with comments like “Wait a second, let’s listen to everyone’s ideas,” or “Hold on we can’t all talk at once.” Both of which would be a good start on effective problem solving. Unless the group has been really coached they won’t listen to each other and break the problem down to attack it step by step. This isn’t new thinking, it’s been around forever but it just doesn’t happen without the leader making an inordinate effort to guide the group through the process. In fact the group will often attempt to overpower a leader trying to lead this way, because they just don’t want to take the time. 

So the leader is in the double bind of not giving the group what they say they want and giving them something they don’t welcome. But that is why being in a leadership position is hard, important, and necessary, because groups may know what they want but not what they need.




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Ted Baumhauer


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