Group Decision-Making, Leadership, Influence and Power Analysis

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The film “12 Angry Men (1957)” present a diverse group of twelve American jurors brought together to decide the guilt or innocence of a teenaged defendant in a seemingly open-and-shut murder trial case. The film illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of group decision-making, group developmental stages, leadership personality and models, social influence tactics and outcomes, and the bases of social power. The following advantages of group decision-making were demonstrated in this approximately 90 min black-and-white 1957 film: First is diversity.

A pool of varied cultural backgrounds, age groups etc, and different life experiences is a great strength of a group in decision-making. Second is enhanced memory of facts. The combine memory of a number of people is certainly better than that of an individual, and is tremendously advantageous in group decision-making. This was well demonstrated throughout the film in both the argument for and against guilty verdict, culminating in a fair fact-based decision of a “not guilty” verdict. A third and very important advantage is reduced influence of prejudice on final decision.

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In group decision-making, individual biases can be recognized, challenged and eliminated as demonstrated by the film. Fourthly, another advantage of group decision-making that was shown by this film is the fact that a more creative and innovative solutions to problems could emerge from group deliberations than would in an individual decision making process. Fifthly, there is a collective understanding in group decision-making. The members together reach a decision after deliberation and discussions, so that everyone understand better how and why the decision and what action to be followed.

For instance, the film ended without the foreman or anyone actually announcing what verdict was to be taken to the judge. It was obvious to every member. A major disadvantage of group decision-making that was very obvious from the “12 angry men” is that it requires more time to reach a decision. Another is groupthink. Groupthink is an undesirable behavior in group decision-making whereby members strive for unanimity of decision without accurate assessment of required information to reach decision. This problem was well illustrated at the early stage in the film when all but one of the 12 jurors voted guilty”, and instead of deliberating, simply saw the guilty verdict as obvious, fair, unanimous, and the only alternative without any vulnerability to error of judgment. They thought they only needed to convince the only dissenting voice, and quickly pass on the unanimous decision required by the judge without carefully examining the facts. These are some of the typical symptoms of groupthink. Now, was the “12 angry men” jury effective at making decisions? The answer is yes, though inefficiently.

They were able through long arguments, evaluation and re-evaluation of the facts under the leadership of the opposition of a verdict without deliberation, Juror #8 reached a fair and unanimous verdict. All five stages of Tuckman’s group development theory- forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning were observed in the “12 angry men”, with the first three in a continuum. The forming stage started before the coming together in the room where they discussed and made the verdict decision. The jurors all listened to the murder case in the court and were clearly informed about their task by the judge.

Though there was apparently no formal introduction of members to each other, the jurors familiarized themselves with each other in informal discussions before and well into the deliberations, and also learn more about each other and the task through formal reasoning together and arguments against each other’s position. Arguments and brainstorming with each other accelerated as the jurors became more and more familiar with each other, and alternative interpretations of the facts. This formed the storming stage. Elements of the norming stage could be observed from the very start.

Implicit rules of mode of communication towards achieving assigned task’s goal were made, choosing to use voting as a way of showing percentage of agreement until a unanimous (100% “guilty” or “not guilty” vote) decision is reached. As brainstorming and arguments in the storming stage intensified, more and clearer guiding rules were implicitly made or became obvious to members. The performing stage was when the group reached a conclusive unanimous decision of “not guilty” verdict, culminating in the adjourning phase where the group completed its task, disbanded and dispatched from the room to their various individual ways.

In the film, Juror #8 stood out as exemplifying leadership characteristics. He demonstrated true leadership, able to make followers by influencing the minds, feelings and actions of others. Apparently, the entire over 90 min film is centered on this juror making followers of the rest 11 jurors and leading them to successfully complete the group’s task of reaching a fair and unanimous verdict. He started out by being the only odd man, choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong and declaring a non-guilty verdict.

But through showing of personal integrity and appeal, respect, and empathy, rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, and a sense of duty, he was able to force the jury to deliberate and eventually convinced the others that the accused was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The first leadership model illustrated by the film “12 angry men” is shared leadership. The shared leadership model is particularly needed in group or team work, and it entails a simultaneous, mutual influence process in which the members share responsibility for leading regardless of formal roles and titles.

This type of leadership was very obvious in this film. Juror #1 had the formal role to lead the group, but every member had the responsibility to lead, and so members with some leadership qualities such as juror # 4, 8, 9 and 11, particularly, # 4 & 8 led the group simultaneously with juror #1 the foreman. The second leadership model that was illustrated in this film is the transformational leadership. This leadership model was well exemplified by juror #8 leadership. According to Kinicki & Kreitner (2009), transformational leaders transform followers by creating changes in their goals, values, needs, beliefs, and aspirations.

This is exactly what juror #8 did in this film, as already explained in the preceding paragraph. He was a successful transformational leader. About six influence tactics (Chapter 13 in Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009) were probably illustrated in the 12 angry men film, but I will discuss the most successful four used by Juror #8 to win over all the other jurors to join in his “not guilty” verdict. First, juror #8 used rational persuasion, a tactic that involves trying to convince someone with reason, logic, or facts.

Although, he stated clearly from the beginning that he did not intend to change anyone’s verdict, he started off by convincing the other jurors the reason it was necessary to spend sometime to discuss the case. And throughout the deliberation, he used logical reasoning and analysis of facts to convince the others that the teenage boy accused of murdering his father is not guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Secondly, juror #8 used inspirational appeal, a tactic that involves trying to build enthusiasm by appealing to others’ emotions, ideals, or values to convince his colleagues.

He made them consider the humanity of the situation, reminding them that a man’s life is at stake and that it would be unfair to just send a boy off to die without talking about it first. He added “Supposing we’re wrong”. He admitted that he did not necessarily believe the boy’s story, but he feels that the accused is entitled to a thoughtful weighing of the facts- the legal standard that they were given by the judge. He tried to instill doubt in the others regarding the witnesses who testified under oath, “supposing they’re wrong…Could they be wrong?….

They’re only people. People make mistakes. Could they be wrong? ” Thirdly, juror #8 employed consultation tactic which involves getting others to participate in planning, making decisions, and changes to bring others on board and together join to convince the rest. He used this tactics particularly in joining effort with the earlier converts such as the old man juror #9 to work together to convince the others. And fourthly, juror #8 used personal appeal or friendship. He ensured that he did not upset but entice others to reason along with him.

He was very respectful, did not accuse or harass, and spoke in soft voice even at a very difficult stage when he was the only dissenting voice. This friendly personality could be a major factor that made the old man juror #9 to give him the vote he direly needed to forge ahead with his right belief of the need to talk and carefully weigh alternative interpretations of the facts in the case. Juror #8 used these influence tactics successfully, and they resulted in commitment (substantial agreement) of the jurors to giving a well considered, fair, and unanimous verdict of “not guilty”.

They all became convinced that there were reasonable doubts in their mind as to whether the accused committed the murder or not. Two social power bases were apparent in the 12 angry men film. The first is expert power which refers to obtaining compliance through ones’ knowledge or information. A good example is when the old man juror #9 got Juror #4 to comply by pointing out the fact that the marks on the nose of the woman who witnessed in the murder case showed that she normally wears eye glasses.

They both agreed that since she was not expected to have had them on while sleeping, her claim that she saw the boy killing his father from across is faulty. The second is referent power or charisma which comes into play when one’s personality is the reason for compliance. This was clearly demonstrated by the old man’s (Juror #9) reason of changing his vote to “not guilty” to join juror #8 in the demand for a careful weighing of facts to reach a fair verdict. Reference: Kinicki, A & Kreitner, R (2009). Organizational Behavior: Key concepts, skills & best practices. 4th edition. Irwin/McGraw-Hill.

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