Enhancing Group Performance

Enhancing Group Performance

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Enhancing Group Performance

Organisational psychologists have been interested in seeing whether
random selection of leaders or the usual systematic selection of
leaders leads to greater task performance and greater group
cohesiveness (also known as group maintenance). Finding significant
results here would be beneficial in the workplace if the problem of
random selection vs. formal selection is solved as it would help
increase group harmony and productivity.

The findings of previous research have been varied. In a study very
similar in method and aims to this present study found that the random
selection of leaders leads to greater task performance. ( Haslam, S.A.,
McGarty, C., Brown, P.M., Eggins, R.A., Morrison, B.E., & Reynolds,
K.J. (1998). Three experiments were done in this study using the same
survival task used in this present study. The first two experiments
measured task performance and group maintenance by manipulating the
process of leadership selection (random, informal and formal). The
third experiment confirmed that society holds the view that formal
selection is better than random selection of leaders, hence explaining
the reduced group maintenance in groups with randomly selected leaders
since they perceived the process of leadership selection to be less
legitimate. This third experiment was counterintuitive and was done by
naïve participants which justified the findings of the first two
experiments that task performance was better yet group maintenance was
poorer in randomly selected groups.

Another study (Sosik, John, J., Avolio, Bruce, J., Kahai, Surinder,
S.(1997) found that anonymity had a positive effect for
transformational leadership on group effectiveness( similar to task
performance). Anonymity in this case refers to group members being
unidentified by the group leader on the GDSS system (the internal
computer system measuring group potency and group effectiveness). The
variables manipulated were the types of leadership (transactional and
transformational) and group potency and group effectiveness were
measured. This study shows that there is a direct correlation in the
leadership style and task performance which in our study could be
determined to be different in random or formal selection of leaders

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since they have may be expected to behave differently (i.e. variations
in authoritativeness). Also the participants were asked to indicate
the leadership style (as autocratic, democratic and Laissez Faire)
operant in their group.

These studies provide a basis for this present study. The method of
leadership selection and its impact on group task performance and on
team maintenance as examined by (Haslam, S.A., McGarty, C., Brown,
P.M., Eggins, R.A., Morrison, B.E., & Reynolds, K.J. (1998)) needs to
be verified and confirmed. Further, none of these studies examined the
process of group member selection (i.e. formal allocation or
self-selected allocation) on group task performance and team
maintenance. This is of importance since it provides insights into
productivity and efficiency of work groups who are previously
acquainted versus those groups in which members are selected formally.

Based on the results of the previous ( Haslam, S.A., McGarty, C.,
Brown, P.M., Eggins, R.A., Morrison, B.E., & Reynolds, K.J. (1998)
study, it is hypothesized that the random selection of leaders would
lead to greater task performance (hypothesis 1). And using the results
of experiment 3 in this study, it is expected group maintenance and
the view of effectiveness of leadership by non leader members would be
greater in the systematic selection of leaders (hypothesis 2). Using
common sense (since there is no previous research on this subject),
self selected groups should have higher group maintenance and greater
confidence in the group decision since individuals should have
selected members in which they had faith or potency (hypothesis 3).



We used a 2 (alphabetical allocation of groups/ self selected groups)
x 3 (formal/random/informal) factorial design. The participants were
placed randomly approximately evenly assigned to these conditions. The
6 different conditions were:-

Allocated- Formal Self-selected- Formal

Allocated- Random Self-selected- Random

Allocated- Informal Self-selected- Informal

In the Group allocation independent variables, the random allocation
of the groups were done alphabetically in the individual tutorial
groups. While the self-selected groups contained people who chose to
form a group together.

In the leadership selection independent variables, the formal
allocation was done on the basis of the highest score on the
Leadership questionnaire. The random allocation was done by
alphabetical surname (e.g. the surname that is first in the alphabet)
and the informal was where the group chose its own leader.

The dependant variable of task performance was measured by calculating
the difference in score between score rankings, and expert rankings of
the Nuclear Fallout task. The closer the score was to the expert
rankings, the better the task performance.

The dependant variable of group maintenance was measured by using a
number of different measures. Team maintenance refers to the proximity
between non-leader member's rankings and group rankings and enjoyment
of the task.

Extraneous variables were controlled by the tutor being instructed on
how to perform the task accurately and without bias. The sizes of the
tutorial classes were roughly similar and the group sizes were equal
in each tutorial. (e.g. 4 in each group)


204 males and 385 participants doing psychology as a subject as a
first year course at the University of New South Wales participated in
this experiment. The participated as part of compulsory tutorial


No. of participants

Mean age and range



19.7 (range 16-46)



19.5 (range 16-45)


· Leadership questionnaire- a leadership questionnaire was completed
by all individuals in the tutorial classes (See Appendix part 1). In
this they indicated they indicated the level of skill they believed
they possessed in 10 aspects of leadership qualities.

· Tutor and Leader Instructions- The tutor took spoke with the leaders
in isolation from the groups. They told them they had to read the
instructions that were on a piece of paper out loud to their group
gave them the materials for the group survival task. (see Appendix
Part 2)

· Nuclear Fallout Shelter Task- The task was to rank 12 items (e.g.
broom, water, compass, Geiger-counter) in terms of necessity for the
group's survival. The groups were given 20 minutes to complete the
task. (see Appendix Part 3)

· Individuals- The individuals were asked to provide their own ranking
of the 12 items and also complete answers to a few questions
demonstrating group cohesiveness. (see Appendix Part 4)


1. There was a leadership questionnaire completed

2. The following week the survival task was completed by groups with
the various experimental conditions imposed

3. Instructions were given to the leader and they were given
instruction and the Nuclear Fallout Shelter task to give to the

4. After the completion of the tasks, all individuals completed an
Individual feedback form in order to measure group maintenance


The difference in Group Performance in random and non-random
leadership selection was non-existent. Formally selected leaders
performed significantly worse than informally selected leaders (53.7
for Formal selection as compared to 51.5 for Informal selection).

There was no significant difference in group cohesion levels as
measured by deviation from Group Decision scores.

Self-selected groups performed significantly better than allocated
groups in task performance (51.9 for self-selected compared to 53.96
for allocated, remembering lower score indicates greater proximity to
expert rankings and higher task performance).

Group cohesion was not dependant on Group selection.

The agreement with the leader was greater in formally and informally
selected groups than in randomly selected groups. (The deviation in
random selection was higher (24.7) compared to formally and informally
selected groups (21.3 and 19.5 respectively).

Informally selected groups thought their leaders were more
legitimately chosen than in the formally selected groups. (4.7
compared to 4.3 respectively)

Team members with informally selected leaders enjoyed the task more
than those with formally selected leaders.


· Haslam, S.A., McGarty, C., Brown, P.M., Eggins, R.A., Morrison,
B.E., & Reynolds, K.J. (1998). Inspecting the Emperor's clothes:
Evidence that random selection of leaders can enhance group
performance. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, 2, 168-184

· Sosik, John, J., Avolio, Bruce, J., Kahai, Surinder, S.(1997)
Effects of leadership style and anonymity on group potency and
effectiveness in a group decision support system environment. Journal
of Applied Psychology, 82, 89-100
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