How to Become an Effective Group Member in College

Last Updated on December 14, 2012

Every group needs a leader. That’s a given. But a leader, on his own, does not make a group. There are other members of the team that can contribute to the success of the project. When you’re in a group, you’re expected to do well no matter what role you play. Here are some tips to better group dynamics in college.

Be a Leader

When in a leadership role, it’s easy to think of yourself as the one responsible for making the decisions and giving each member specific tasks to be followed. The distinction between a leader and a follower is clear enough, at least according to popular belief. But effective leadership comes when you are able to think of yourself as a group member with a specific role to play. You’re a part of the team and not above it, but your responsibilities are much greater because of the role you’re playing.

Always consider yourself the team’s moderator, and not the team’s main member. Your role is distinct because you’re in a position to receive the lion’s share of praise when the team succeeds. On the other hand, the failure of the team can easily be attributed to your incapacity to lead. Being credited for the team’s success by your own peers and your professor is a plus, but never forget that you didn’t do the work alone. If the project failed, be gracious enough to take responsibility,

The line between leader and follower may be distinct in some cases, and obscure in others. It is your job to know how and when you’re going to put your foot down and make a decision when the team is divided. At the same time, you should pull your own weight in terms of responsibilities so that your teammates wouldn’t feel abandoned by a leader that expects things done even when he himself doesn’t take his share of the workload.

Be a Good Follower

A good follower does not simply sit around and wait for the leader to tell him what to do. He also shouldn’t feel helpless or whine about his position as a follower if the leader fails to drive the team in the right direction. While it's important that the leader and the followers are on the same page when it comes to their project, a follower should not be passively agreeing to what the leader is saying. Instead, he or she should be a major part of the decision-making process. In today's world, followers are expected to contribute ideas and take initiative.

The old way of following is waiting around for instructions. Especially in a college setting, a good follower pitches well-thought out suggestions, and graciously goes with the consensus when his suggestions are shot down. It is also the responsibility of a follower to clarify which goals are attainable in a certain time frame and figure out how to reach those goals.

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