When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Mieke Koeslag-Kreunen of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, Piet Van den Bossche of the University of Antwerp, Michael Hoven of Maastricht University, Marcel Van der Klink of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, and Wim Gijselaers of Maastricht University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss some of the findings of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are fascinated why some leaders succeed and others don’t in getting the most out of their teams. Knowing that team processes determine team effectiveness we wanted to know how leadership makes a difference in teams. Keeping in mind that one of the fundamental team processes is sharing knowledge and discussing what is shared to build advanced or new knowledge that enable developing the necessary solutions as a team. We were intrigued by the question how team leaders can facilitate this process of team learning without over-structuring it and leaving no space for team members to exhibit the necessary behaviors themselves. Many different leadership behaviors can be effective, but team leaders simply cannot display all necessary behaviors by themselves. Moreover, what can you do as a team leader when your team faces a task that is unstructured or for which you also do not have the answers? What is the best advice for these team leaders? In answering this question, we wanted to identify when leadership propels teams in building new or advanced knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative and can it impact the field?

After synthesizing the 2000+ scientific hits on the topic, we showed that encouraging, structuring and sharing team leadership behaviors all support team learning. Interestingly, we also found new evidence that the type of team task determines which leadership behaviors can best be displayed to support teams in building new or advanced knowledge. As a consequence, the advice for team leaders is to vary their behavior depending on the team task and to ascertain the specific team situation in their choice. If pioneering ideas and new products of teams are aimed for, team leaders should mainly invest in building trust, creativity and enthusiasm, and not inhibit teams from learning by putting too much emphasis on the task. If advancing existing knowledge and adaptation of the products is enough to reach team success, team leaders who focus on the task, methods and outcomes are beneficial because such behaviors reinforces using known protocols.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

It would be interesting to dig into the reciprocal effect of the team process and leadership behavior, as well as how leadership behavior may shift in style and source over time. We mainly found cross-sectional studies that covered just one or two types of team leadership behavior and examines its influence on team learning behavior. Experimental and longitudinal studies on this topic may bring new perspectives on how team leaders can vary their behavior, what kind of effect that has on team learning, and what team leaders can do to use that information in future team interactions, subsequently.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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How Satisfied Are Team Members Individually?

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Jose M. de la Torre-Ruiz who collaborated with Vera Ferron-Vilchez and Natalia Ortiz-e-Mandojana on their article “Team Decision Making and Individual Satisfaction with the Team” in the April Issue of Small Group Research.]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe main reason justifying this work was the necessity of analyzing in depth individuals’ affective reactions toward being involved in team-decision making processes. Although team decisions have shown some advantages compared with decisions made by only one person, team decision-making process can be complex and generate some negative reactions by part of team members. For this reason in this paper we paid attention to some specific factors that may influence the satisfaction of individuals with the team. We specifically focus on some personality traits (collectivism orientation and self-efficacy for teamwork), on the individuals’ perception of team decision-making process (specifically perception of team debate and decision comprehensiveness), and on the final decision of the team.

Our work highlights the necessity of considering that team members’ satisfaction with the team may depend on factors developed at different temporal moments in the team decision-making process. These results have important implications to the extent that the handling of these factors can be different.

The fact that team debate has a negative influence on team members’ satisfaction but that the decision comprehensiveness has a positive influence is an especially interesting result. This implies that although team members are satisfied when different opinions are assessed before making the decision, they prefer to avoid possible conflicts and heated debates that can be derived from this. Thus, our result highlight the necessity of studying in depth the decision-making process and try to understand when team members can be more or less comfortable in the team.

Read “Team Decision Making and Individual Satisfaction with the Team” for free from Small Group Research by clicking here. Make sure to click here to sign up for e-alerts and read about all the latest from Small Group Research.

José M. de la Torre-Ruiz is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where he received his PhD. His primary research interests are human resource management and team management.
8046194838_6240affd16_mVera Ferrón-Vílchez is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where she received her PhD in management. Her current research focuses on advanced environmental strategies, human resources management, and the achievement of cost leadership strategy.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Natalia Ortiz foto_
Natalia Ortiz-de-Mandojana is an assistant professor of organization and management at the University of Islas Baleares, Spain. She received her PhD from University of Granada. Her research focuses on environmental management and corporate governance.