Group Dynamics and Role Play

23 February 2015

according to J.A.Malarewics

Apart from the group leader, 5 distinct roles come to light. These 5 roles may have an unnerving effect upon you and can put the brakes on group dynamics, even create disharmony and contribute to unease within the group.

The Group Leader

  1. The Flamboyant Scapegoat
  2. The Victimized Scapegoat
  3. The Seducer
  4. The Anti-Conflict Person
  5. The Hidden Leader

Most of the time, the other people in the group observe how the group leader manages these 5 personalities. As the head of the group, he or she is interested in identifying the positioning of each one of them to better anticipate or second-guess their moves and take the initiative. As soon as unease within the group is observed, it is important to initiate changes to the players. 

The Group Leader

He/she is either the designated or the self-proclaimed leader of the group. His authority will depend on his legitimacy and his credibility, whether acquired or not, in the eyes of the group.
The leader will adopt a high position if the situation is critical or if the group is weakly competent and does not cooperate. In this case the leader organizes, informs and decides.

The leader will adopt a low position if the team is composed of professionals who are mature or in the making. In this case the leader allows things to happen and makes sure that the group organizes itself, decides and acts. The group leader then focusses on the process of making the group dynamic and attempts to connect talent with complementary personalities.

Role 1 – The Flamboyant Scapegoat: 
He sits, in general, either facing the leader or close to him.
His line is to provoke and escalate conflict with the official boss.
He loudly tells what the others in the group are thinking to themselves. He might seek to disqualify the leader of the group by asking him to justify himself.
He will take a position contradictory to the collective consensus and he wields influence within the group.
Put to good use, this role helps to call things into question within the group and to find the best solutions.

How do you manage him ?

  • Show, without entering into an interpersonal conflict, that the leader of the group is not afraid of him 
  • Avoid time-consuming consensuses
  • Provoke a confrontation in order to pull the rug from under his feet
  • Put him in a position of double constraint with regard to your role of group leader

Role 2 – The Victimized Scapegoat 
The person in this role sits, in general, either right in the front to gain recognition or far behind in the back because he feels rejected.
He channelizes the flaws of the group when there is no other common enemy. Just like the bard in Asterix, everyone goes against him without booting him out of the group. 

How do you manage him ?

  • Make sure the group does not become his hangman
  • Clarify his added value
  • Avoid ganging up against him

Role 3 – The Seducer
He sits close to the leader. He seeks a special relationship with the leader.
He brings recognition (whether sincere or not) to the leader of the group.
In a flattering tone, The Seducer may declare to the leader: “Change nothing, you are excellent”! He thus seeks to make an alliance with the leader and exclude the rest of the group. The Seducer risks taking up too much space at the expense of the group.
This personality could equally be tasked by the group to keep the leader busy, thereby, creating an anesthetic effect on the leader.

How do you manage him ?

  • Use humor and, more importantly, self-mockery, putting yourself below him.
  • Condemn what is happening: “Your attempts at seduction don’t interest me”

Role 4 – The Anti-Conflict Person
The Anti-Conflict Person takes charge of a part of the leader’s job. He likes to sit right in the center to manage the group himself while, at the same time, maintaining harmony.
He is the moderator who calms tensions and conflicts. He dislikes tension and confrontation. He prevents all potential conflicts inside and outside the group.
He soothes emotions and facilitates arriving at a decision that is shared and accepted by everyone.
He may lead the revolt against the Flamboyant Scapegoat, who is seeking to enter into a conflict with the leader of the group.
His action can put an end to contradictory, yet necessary, discussions.

How to Manage Him ?

  • Direct him “against” the Flamboyant Scapegoat to create a balance  
  • To stop him, you can tell him that you’ll be angry if he continues to look for a consensus at all costs 

Role 5 – The Hidden Leader 
He generally sits in the back with a full view of the room to better control the group.
He is the undeclared leader of the group. His acts are low profile, hidden and discreet, and he attentively observes the group.
He generally has strong interpersonal skills within the group, even if, in principle, it doesn’t seem so.
You can discover him by observing the heads turning in his direction when the others are giving an opinion or taking a decision. Also observe body language.
The leader must identify him without making it obvious, so as to avoid giving him more power.
The Hidden Leader can be either a real adversary or a key ally of the group leader 

How do you manage him ?

  • Recognize him without showing it to the group. 
  • Make an alliance with him in private.

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