Leader is one of the most significant variables influencing the group’s success or failure. Following are some personal characteristics of successful group leader:
Courage is demonstrate through willingness to :
be vulnerable at times, admitting mistakes and imperfections and taking the same risk you expect groups members to take;
confront others but to stay ‘with’ them as you work out conflict;
act on your belief and hunches;
be emotionally touch by others and to draw on your experiences to identify with them;
examine your life;
be direct and honest with members in a caring and respectful way; and
express the members your fears and expectations about the group process.
By the behavior you model, you can teach the members that courage does not mean being without fears; rather, it means acknowledging fears and dealing with them. l Willingness to Model. i One of the best ways to teach desired behaviors is by modeling them in the group. Through your behavior and the attitudes conveyed by it, you can create such groups norms as openness, seriousness of purpose, acceptance of others, and the desirability of taking risks. Engaging in honest, appropriate, and timely self-disclosure can be a way to fulfill the leadership function of modeling.
Presence involves being touch by others pain, struggles, and joys. However, it also involves not becoming overwhelmed by a member’s pain. Presence implies not being distracted, but fully attentive to what is going on in the moment. Some members may elicit anger in a group leader, and others may evoke pain, sadness, guilt, or happiness. You become more emotionally involved with others by paying close attention to your own reactions. This does not mean that you will necessarily talk about situations in your own life that caused you to pain or evoked the anger. It means you will allow yourself to experience these feelings, even for just a few moments. Fully experiencing emotions gives you the ability to compassionate and emphatic with your clients. At the same time, as you’re moved by others’ experiences, it is important to remain a separate person and to avoid the trap of over identifying with your client’s situations.
To increase your ability to be present, spend some time alone before leading a group and block out distractions as much as possible. It is good to prepare yourself by thinking about the people in the group and about how you might increase your involvement with them.
Goodwill and Caring.
A sincere interest in the welfare of others is essential in a group leader. You must not exploit members or use them primarily to enhance your own ego. Your main job in the group is to help members get what they are coming for, not to get in their way. Caring involves respecting, trusting, and valuing people. It is vital that you become aware of what kind of people you care for and what kind you find it difficult to care for.
There are various ways of exhibiting a caring attitude. One way is by inviting a client to participate but allowing that person to decide how far to go. Or you can observe discrepancies between a client’s words and behavior but confront that person in a way that doesn’t intensify fear and resistance. Another way to express caring is by giving warmth, concern, and support when, and only when, you feel it toward person.
Belief in Group Process.
Deep confidence in the value of group process is positively related to constructive outcomes. Belief in what you are doing and trust the therapeutic forces in a group. Enthusiasm and convictions are powerful both in attracting to clientele and in providing an incentive to work. Group leader who do not genuinely believe in the value of therapeutic work and who do it only for money or power are behaving unethically.
Openness means reveal enough of yourself to give the participants a sense of who you are as a person. It does not mean that you reveal every aspect of your personal life. Your being open can also enhance group process if you appropriately reveal your reactions to the members and to how you are being affected by being with the group.
Your openness will foster a corresponding spirit of openness within the group. It will enables members to become more open about their feelings and beliefs, and it lends a certain fluidity to the group process. Self-revelations should not be manipulated as a technique; it is best done spontaneously, when it seems appropriate.
Non-defensiveness in Coping with Criticism
Dealing frankly with criticism is related with openness. If you endure as a group leader, you simply cannot afford to have a fragile ego. Group leader who are easily threatened, who are insecure in their work of leading, who are overly sensitive to negative feedback, who depend highly on group approval will encounter major problems when carrying out a leadership function. Some of the criticism may be fair- and some of it may be unfair expression of jealousy, testing authority, power seeking, or projection onto your feelings for other people. It is crucial for you to nondefensively explore with the group the feelings behind the criticism.
If members take a risk and confront the leader and are chastised for doing this, they are likely to feel scolded for taking a chance and may withdraw. Furthermore, others in the group may receive the massage that openness and honesty are not really valued.
Even if someone verbally abuses you as a leader, it is not therapeutic for you to respond in kind. Instead, you can give the person your reactions and let him know how you are affected by the confrontation. You can model for members an effective and non-aggressive way of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
Becoming Aware of Your Own Culture.
Knowing how your own culture influences your decisions and daily behavior provides a frame of reference for understanding the world view of those who differ from you. Openness to diversity is the opposite of being entrapped by a narrow existence. Cultural encapsulation, or provincialism, affects not only you but your group members as well. If you have a sense of your own culture and how your values are influenced by your social environment, you have a basis for understanding the world of those who are different from you in a number of respects. Your willingness to welcome diversity will, to a large extent, determine your effectiveness in bringing energy to a group.
Personal power does not entail domination of members or manipulation of them toward the leader’s end. Rather, it is dynamic and vital characteristics of leaders who know who they are and what they want. This power involves a self confidence in self. Instead of merely talking about the importance of being alive, powerful leaders express and radiate an aliveness through their actions.
Power and honesty are closely related. People with personal power are the ones who can show themselves. Although they might be frightened by certain qualities within themselves, the fear doesn’t keep them from examining these qualities. Powerful people recognize and accept their weaknesses and don’t expand energy concealing them for themselves and others. In contrast, powerless people need very much to defend themselves against self-knowledge. They often react as if they were afraid that their vulnerabilities will be discovered.
Clients sometimes view leaders as perfect. They tend to undercut their own power by giving their leader all of the credits for their insights and changes. There is a danger that leaders will become infatuated with clients’ perceptions of them as finished products and come to belief this myth.
Group leading can be taxing and draining as well as exciting and energizing. Therefore, you need physical and psychological stamina and the ability to withstand pressure to remain vitalized throughout the course of group. Aware your own energy level. It is good to have sources other than your groups for psychological nourishment. If you depend primarily o the success level of your groups for this sustenance, you run a high risk of being undernourished and thus of losing the stamina so vital to your success as a leader. Unrealistically high expectations can also affects your stamina. Those leaders who cling to such expectations of dramatic change are often disappointed in themselves and in what they perceive as ‘poor performance’ on the part of their group. Faced with the discrepancy between their vision of what the group should be and what actually occurs, these leaders often lose their enthusiasm and begin to needlessly blame both themselves and the group members for what they see as failure. j Willingness to Seek New Experience.
Variety of life experiences enlarge the capacity to understand client’s psychological world. Respect for the complexity of the human struggles that grow out of various cultural background. Learn about human struggles by recognizing and wrestling with your own life issues. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to have the same problems as your clients, but the emotions that all of us experience are much the same. We all experience psychological pain, even though the course of this pain may be different. One basis for empathizing with clients is being open to the sources of pain in your own life without becoming swept up by this pain.
A central characteristics for any therapeutic person is an awareness of self, including one’s identity, cultural perspective, goals, motivations, needs, limitations, strengths, values, feelings and problems. Be open to new life experiences and divergent lifestyles, aware why you choose to lead the group, encourage yourself and others to self-discovery and reflect on interactions you have had with members of your groups.
Sense of Humor.
People sometimes take themselves so seriously that they miss an opportunity to put the importance of their problems in perspective. The ability to a laugh and to see the humor in your human frailties can be extremely useful in helping members keep a balanced perspectives and avoid becoming ‘psychologically heavy’. Groups occasionally exhibit a real need for laughter and joking simply to release built –up tension. This release should not be viewed as an escape, for genuine humor can heal.
The capacity to be spontaneously creative, approaching each group with fresh ideas, is a most important characteristics. Discover new ways of approaching a group by inventing experiments that emerge from here-and –now interactions. Working with interesting co-leaders and sometimes, getting some distance from groups (such as conducting fewer of them, doing other thing, or taking vacation) may also help you gain fresh perspective. i Personal Dedication and Commitment.
Being a professional who makes a difference involves having ideals that provide meaning and direction in your life. This kind of dedication has direct application for leading groups. Belief the value of group process in empowering individuals, having guiding vision will make you able to ride out difficult times in a group,stay focused and on track with group members when the waters get rough.
Being a dedicated professional also involves humility, which means being open to feedback and ideas and being willing to explore one’s self. Humility does not mean self-effacing. It is the opposite of the arrogance that is implied in convincing ourselves that we have ‘truly arrived’ and that there is nothing more for us to learn. In addition, professional commitment entails staying abreast of changes in the field, reading journals and books, and attending periodic seminars to remain fresh and innovative.
~Marianne Schneider Corey/ Gerald Corey, Groups: Process & Practices~