LEADERSHIP AND GROUP PARTICIPATION IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION
Adedoyin (2002) defined agricultural extension as a comprehensive programme
of services deliberately put in place for expanding, strengthening and empowering the capacity of the present and prospective farmers, farm families, other rural economic operators and farmer associations with managerial and communications skills that they
need to succeed in farming and farm related occupations. According to Research and Extension (2002) agricultural extension is a service that is committed to expanding human capacity by delivering educational programmes and technical information that result in improved leadership skills in the areas of communication, group dynamics, conflict resolution, issue analysis and strategic planning that can enhance the economic
viability and quality of life in communities.
Agricultural extension is an educational system that provides farmers with technical advice required to increase their agricultural production and incomes (including advice on credit, other inputs and markets). It also provides agricultural service organizations (such as those for research and credit) with information on farmer conditions, constraints and priorities so that these organizations can serve the farmers better (Ogunbameru, 2005).
Leadership is an act that causes others to act or respond in a shared direction. A rural leader is the one who can inspire, persuade, influence and motivate useful changes. Bringing about change is a critical goal because most improvements demand a departure from routine ways. A Group leader creates a vision for others and then directs them towards achieving that. A group leader has followers who have confidence in him and give him support and commitment to a goal. This is what leadership really means.
Leadership in rural areas is a key dynamic force that motivates and captures the cooperation of people. A leader in a nay group must have a magnetic personality. Persuasion is another key aspect of leader’s role. A leader must often get people to change their minds or take actions they had not considered. Influence is almost synonymous with leadership. Leadership is often defined as the process of influencing others to achieve objectives. He influences others to accomplish such things as taking on more responsibility, achieving high quality standards and raising ethical standards. Many leaders, unfortunately in rural areas influence group members to engage in negative, unethical acts that hurt the community in the long run.
Leaders have to motivate their followers to work harder. Top rural leaders are generally tough as their jobs are immensely demanding of time, concentration, sheer grinding brain power and physically tiring. He is supposed to make decisions on his own, strong willed, ambitious, energetic and motivated by power. He is full of courage, emotionally and physically strong and has ability to empathies with others. He is sensitive to other people’s needs, values, cultures, beliefs and tradition. He takes on responsibility and is credible. He is dependable and loyal to his followers.
While leadership styles may vary with person and situation, it is always important for leaders to remember their role in the group. Effective leaders both participate in the group and work to achieve the overall goal of the group, guiding members in the right direction. Effective leaders will build mutually respectful relationships with their group members. Having a rapport with group members allows leaders to better understand members’ actions and increase their cooperation. Finally, effective leaders facilitate excellent communication amongst the group. Great communication leads to better and more effective idea generation and less conflict overall.
In contrast to individual leadership, some organizations have adopted group leadership. In this situation, more than one person provides direction to the group as a whole. Some organizations have taken this approach in hopes of increasing creativity, reducing costs, or downsizing. Others may see the traditional leadership of a boss as costing too much in team performance. In some situations, the team members best able to handle any given phase of the project become the temporary leaders. Additionally, as each team member has the opportunity to experience the elevated level of empowerment, it energizes staff and feeds the cycle of success
Leaders who demonstrate persistence, tenacity, determination, and synergistic communication skills will bring out the same qualities in their groups. Good leaders use their own inner mentors to energize their team and organizations and lead a team to achieve success.
According to the National School Boards Association (USA):
These Group Leaderships or Leadership Teams have specific characteristics:
Characteristics of a Team
• There must be an awareness of unity on the part of all its members.
• There must be interpersonal relationship. Members must have a chance to contribute, and learn from and work with others.
• The members must have the ability to act together toward a common goal.
Ten characteristics of well-functioning teams:
• Purpose: Members proudly share a sense of why the team exists and are invested in accomplishing its mission and goals.
• Priorities: Members know what needs to be done next, by whom, and by when to achieve team goals.
• Roles: Members know their roles in getting tasks done and when to allow a more skillful member to do a certain task.
• Decisions: Authority and decision-making lines are clearly understood.
• Conflict: Conflict is dealt with openly and is considered important to decision-making and personal growth.
• Personal traits: members feel their unique personalities are appreciated and well utilized.
• Norms: Group norms for working together are set and seen as standards for every one in the groups.
• Effectiveness: Members find team meetings efficient and productive and look forward to this time together.
• Success: Members know clearly when the team has met with success and share in this equally and proudly.
• Training: Opportunities for feedback and updating skills are provided and taken advantage of by team members.
LEADERSHIP AND GROUPS.
Leadership is one of the most studied aspects of group communication. Scholars in business, communication, psychology, and many other fields have written extensively about the qualities of leaders, theories of leadership, and how to build leadership skills. It’s important to point out that although a group may have only one official leader, other group members play important leadership roles. Making this distinction also helps us differentiate between leaders and leadership. Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice (London: Routledge, 2011), 456. The leader is a group role that is associated with a high-status position and may be formally or informally recognized by group members. Leadership is a complex of beliefs, communication patterns, and behaviors that influence the functioning of a group and move a group toward the completion of its task. A person in the role of leader may provide no or poor leadership. Likewise, a person who is not recognized as a “leader” in title can provide excellent leadership. In the remainder of this section, we will discuss some approaches to the study of leadership, leadership styles, and leadership and group dynamics.
In groups, as well, you will observe that members will align themselves with allies according to shared values and what is in their best interest. Different group members find ways to stick together. For example, we have seen male group members align together, Muslim or fundamental Christian group members form coalitions, and gay and lesbian group members pull together in a subgroup against other group members that may appear threatening or aligned against them. Of course, people do tend to be drawn to those who are like them, so it is quite normal for these coalitions to form. You will notice this most dramatically when members form a coalition against you as the leader, a common dynamic that can be therapeutic if handled constructively.
LEADERSHIP AND GROUP PARTICIAPTION
All human interactions have two major ingredients–content and process. The first deals with the subject matter or the task with which the group is working. In most interactions, the main focus is on the content. The second ingredient, process, is concerned with what is happening between and to group members while the group is working. The group process, as it emerges in this course, encompasses tone, atmosphere, participation, styles of influence, leadership struggles, conflict, competition, and cooperation. In most interactions, very little attention is paid to process, even when it is the major cause of ineffective group action. Sensitivity to group process will better enable trainers to diagnose group problems early, and deal with them more effectively, and will enable trainees to be more effective participants.
In a group setting, not every group member does the same thing. Like every other group you have been a part of in your lifetime (such as your family, sports team, friendship group, work group), you know that people take on different roles and tasks, some of which are stable and ingrained (always needing to be the center of attention) and others that are situational and contextual (being quiet around older people). Each group contains a degree of differentiation of roles and tasks among group members. In that sorting out, you can see that people do different things in a group setting that lead to different outcomes. People adopt particular roles in groups depending on (a) what they have done in the past, (b) the composition of the group, and (c) what gets triggered by the unique dynamics of the situation. These characteristic roles can be seen as basically facilitative, as a maintenance function, or obstructive to the process and goals of the groups (Capuzzi
& Gross, 2006). When someone takes the lead in supporting others, as well as offering encouragement, this role is often helpful. Yet another variation of this theme can be dysfunctional when an overly supportive member continuously rescues people when things get intense because of his or her own fears of intimacy.
Just as leaders have been long studied as a part of group communication research, so too have group member roles. Group roles are more dynamic than leadership roles in that a role can be formal or informal and played by more than one group member. Additionally, one group member may exhibit various role behaviors within a single group meeting or play a few consistent roles over the course of his or her involvement with a group. Some people’s role behaviors result from their personality traits, while other people act out a certain role because of a short-term mood, as a reaction to another group member, or out of necessity. Group communication scholars have cautioned us to not always think of these roles as neatly bounded all-inclusive categories. After all, we all play multiple roles within a group and must draw on multiple communication behaviors in order to successfully play them. When someone continually exhibits a particular behavior, it may be labeled as a role, but even isolated behaviors can impact group functioning. In this section, we will discuss the three categories of common group roles that were identified by early group communication scholars. These role categories include task-related roles, maintenance roles, and individual roles that are self-centered or unproductive for the group. Kenneth D. Benne and Paul Sheats, “Functional Roles of Group Members,” Journal of Social Issues 4, no. 2 (1948): 41–49.
Broad consultation from the outset is needed to ensure sufficient commitment to change on the part of all stakeholder groups. Extension services that are participatory and accountable to farmers imply some loss of control for government central planners (and for Bank task managers). Even if the degree of control—in setting specific targets and
scheduling plans to meet these targets—may sometimes be illusory, its symbolic loss can be strongly resisted. Vested interests in the existing extension bureaucracy can also present strong resistance. And farmers themselves may be skeptical of calls to contribute time, effort, or cash, if their experience of extension in the past has been negative.
It is important for both group leaders and group members to understand the difference between involvement and participation. Involvement is simply the act of being in something. Participation is best described as being actively involved. For a group to be successful it is crucial that members are not just involved but ACTIVELY involved.
One characteristic that all leaders have in common is that they exert influence; thus, a leader is a person who influences the behavior of one or more people. They exert influence by rewarding followers, threatening to punish followers, using their position of power, knowing more than anyone else, or because of their personality. One theory of leadership is that people become leaders because of their personalities and the situations in which they find themselves. These two factors work together.
There are five approaches to leadership. Functional leadership occurs when each member of the group takes on leadership responsibilities depending on the group’s task. There are three traditional leadership styles. Authoritarian leaders take charge of a group, especially in situations where the group has little information or experience. Democratic leaders give everyone a chance to participate in decision making, especially in situations where members are equal in status, education, and experience and when there is sufficient time to solve the problem. Laissez-faire leaders do little leading. This kind of leadership works best in self-help groups. Situational leaders can adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation. Using the telling style, they focus more on the task and less on the group. In the selling style, leaders state the problem and decide what to do, then sell the other group members on the idea. Using the participating style, they state the problem but immediately consult with group members. In the delegating style, they hang back and let members plan and execute the job.
A group leader has six responsibilities: to establish procedures, keep the group moving, raise questions, focus on answers, delegate responsibilities, and encourage social interaction. Participants in group discussion play a variety of roles. Members in task roles focus on getting the job done; members in maintenance roles are concerned with the emotional tone of the group. Substantive conflict in groups can be disruptive, but it can also help group members come to better decisions. One important task of a group leader is to manage conflict. He or she should determine how serious the conflict is and take one of the following approaches: avoidance, accommodation, competition, collaboration, or compromise
Agricultural extension in group participation can increase agricultural productivity and farmers’ income through increasing the technical knowledge and farming practices by farmers. Several studies showed that agricultural extension is generally cost-effective, and has a significant and positive effects on farmers’ knowledge and adoption of new technologies and hence on farm productivity (Birhaeuser, Evension and Feder, 1991). Agricultural extension is particularly important where agricultural communities are heavily involved in subsistence agriculture and where large numbers of farmers are illiterates or unfamiliar with current technologies. Agricultural extension hence provide the means for increasing agricultural productivity due to the fact that it links the farmers with the outside world–the scientists, the creditors, and the consumers of his products (Saito and Weidemann, 1990).
The opportunities for promoting technologies to improve farmer incomes are expanded through participatory, farmer-centered approaches to extension, which encourage a holistic perspective, shifting the focus of attention from simple production to the whole farm system. Farmer participation is essential, for example, in introducing Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which requires farmers to invest effort and resources in techniques that are very knowledge intensive. The costs of participation to farmers can be substantial, particularly in terms of their time. Where participatory programs depend on
significant contributions of cash and/or labor from farmers, steps have to be taken to ensure that this does not exclude the poor from sharing in benefits.
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