Leadership in small groups and teams: Toward a theory of group leadership

Randall S. Peterson, Kawon Kim

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - Leadership is a very large topic with a long history of scholarship. Despite this, existing theories of leadership have been mostly silent about group-level phenomena and challenges that leaders of small teams face. Our chapter begins to address this problem by specifying four functions or challenges that any theory of group leadership should address if it is to be helpful to small-group scholars looking for answers about leading teams. Approach - In order to identify main group functions that should be managed by leaders and be developed into refined leadership theories, we review both leadership and team studies. Based on the four functions that we establish, we briefly review a selection of major leadership theories that we believe can provide the foundations for new and better group-level leadership theories. Findings - By using two theoretical categorization (managing individual group members vs. managing group; affective/motivational vs. cognitive functions), we suggest that leaders of small groups deal with the four key leadership functions - (1) managing within-group interpersonal dynamics, (2) within-group coordination of information/resources, (3) group-level affect management, and (4) managing group boundaries for information/resources flow and group identity. Value - This chapter provides specific group functions that groups and teams scholars can use as a foundation to develop better theory of smallgroup leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLooking Back, Moving Forward
Subtitle of host publicationA Review of Group and Team-Based Research
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012

Publication series

NameResearch on Managing Groups and Teams
ISSN (Print)1534-0856


  • Functional theory
  • Leadership
  • Small groups and Teams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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