Building Great Group Dynamics: A Case of Historical Significance- Nu Leadership Series

“I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”
Martha Washington

Let’s examine the art of good group dynamics. Well, let’s take it from the very beginning, Leader. This is your leadership history lesson. Let’s quickly review the Who’s Who in “human relations” theory. Human Relations can be traced to the Hawthorne Experiments begun in 1924 and concluded in the early 1930s. Two significant discoveries from the Hawthorne Experiments were: a) workers’ attitudes are associated with productivity and b) the workplace is a social system with informal group influences. According to the human relations school, the manager should possess critical skills for diagnosing the causes of human behavior at work, interpersonal communication, and motivating and leading employees. Some of the best-known contributors include Mary Parker Follett, Chester Barnard, Abraham Maslow, and Elton Mayo.

Let’s review some of these contributors. First, Elton Mayo (1880-1949), a Harvard Business School professor of industrial research, is widely known for his contributions to the Hawthorne Studies in the Industrial Era. The Hawthorne Studies were critical in advancing human relations factors to all organizations. He concluded that employees’ work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. Many of his research contributions are still being utilized in organizational behavior and development. Second, Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933), a social worker and consultant, was a pioneer in the human relations movement. Even though Follet existed in a male-dominated society, she advocated integration of work tasks and power sharing. Her contributions are still being implemented today and can easily be seen through self-directed teams and democratic leadership models. Finally, Chester Barnard, a self-made scholar and Harvard University dropout, had great impact on management thought. In Barnard’s theories, cooperation within formal organization could achieve greater results than acting alone as an individual. All of these individuals in human relations theory set the foundation for group dynamics. In dealing with changing workforces, tomorrow’s leaders will need special communication skills to inspire a talented and diverse workforce. Today, this school has influenced management theory and practice in such areas as applied psychology. Through the next series of discussions, group dynamics will be more closely analyzed. Stay tuned, Leader!


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Wren, D. (2005). The Evolution of Management Thought. Hooboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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© 2006 by Daryl D. Green