Impact on Leadership Effectiveness
The group size also has a significant impact on leadership effectiveness. The smaller the group size, the better the performance of the leader. Small groups place the leader’s action in close scrutiny of team members, forcing them to work better, thereby raising the standards of leaderships. Studies point to the effectiveness of a small group in dimensions such as interactions, problem solving, stability, communication, and individual involvement or participation. The notable advantages of big groups over small groups include availability of diverse skill-sets to solve most problems and reduced stress for the followers.
Most of the characteristic traits of good leaders such as application of creativity, effective communication, interpersonal skills, and taking passionate decisions become possible better when the leader has a smaller group to manage.
An experimental study conducted by Mana Komai and Philip J. Grossman at Department of Economics, St. Cloud State University suggests that leading by example loses its effectiveness in large groups. Leaders, being pivotal in large groups become eager to participate, whereas followers, becoming marginal in large groups tend to look for a free ride, and this demotivate leaders from leading from the front.
Another study conducted by the University of Washington suggests a generally inverse relationship between performance and group size. The study involved fifty self contained and independent squadrons in Air Defense Command. The squadrons were divided into a larger ground control intercept containing 140 to 200 men, and early warning with 90 to 130 men per unit. Functionally both the squadrons had identical organization.
Although the impact of group size is obvious and substantiated by research, much of the research tries to highlight the superiority or small group over big group of vice-versa, and attempts to identify an optimal group remains limited.