ceo image

Ivan Popov

i was once an athlete. then a journalist. now i am a ceo of an iT company. still running marathons though.

Could It Be Groupthink? Thoughts On a Rather Frequent Leadership Trap

Among the numerous aspects of management and leadership approaches, what has just recently caught my attention was the topic of groupthink – as I went deeper and deeper into the subject of this phenomenon, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if we all occasionally fall victim to groupthink without even realizing it? Let’s see what it’s all about.

To me, one of the leaders’ best qualities is self-reflection. Without it, one could not possibly be aware of whether they actually do a good job managing their teams and navigating their projects. We are all used to paying extra attention to our hard skills, but self-reflection falls under the category of the so-called soft skills – essentially, they help us become better communicators, empathetic leaders and better decision-makers and problem-solvers in the context of proper and people-oriented management.

Self-reflection also helps us witness our mistakes and search for areas of self-development that need further improvement. Essentially, proper self-reflection can assist leaders when it comes to acknowledging whether their team suffers from a phenomenon known as groupthink. 

Sounds familiar? Or perhaps not so much? Either way, I believe it’s a topic worth exploring and that’s why in today’s article we’ll do just that.

Key Takeaways

  • Groupthink is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 that describes a pattern of behavior where consensus in a group is the ultimate goal, potentially leading to overlooked important aspects and avoidance of sharing one’s thoughts. Therefore, mistakes happen due to a lack of critical thinking and sharing different perspectives. In business, groupthink may come up as a result of poor leadership techniques and management styles that need further improvement.
  • Possible causes of groupthink include authoritative leader figures, fear of one’s thoughts and ideas not being taken into consideration, an elevated sense of belonging, a sense of entitlement to being part of a power group of individuals, etc.
  • While groupthink is not always a bad thing, excessive groupthink behavior may be a sign of toxic work culture or bad leadership approaches.
  • Careful observations may let leaders know whether the phenomenon occurs in their work environment – discussing the tell-tale signs.
  • Providing several solutions and waving groupthink goodbye.

Groupthink In the Context of Leadership


Imagine the following scenario:

You observe a group meeting where the leader has a discussion regarding the latest business project. As they outline the project’s structure, requirements and deadlines, the entire session looks more like a monologue-based one-man show after which no one participates in the following Q&A discussion (if there’s one in the first place).

As everyone agrees and frantically takes notes on the long list of tasks and duties, several questions need to come across the observer’s mind: Why isn’t there a discussion? Why is the leader not asking for anyone’s opinion and expertise on a particular subject? What’s the reason for people not being proactive enough in terms of sharing their thoughts or even disagreeing? Why is no one asking project-specific questions in terms of their role and what’s expected? 

Essentially, there could be two reasons explaining this behavior and how the meeting went.

The first is impeccable leadership: In fact, the leader could be so precise, clear, punctual and considering each and every potential question or subject, that there’s virtually no need for anyone to interfere. Perhaps the project’s outlines are so well constructed and each member’s role is tailored so well that nothing further needs to be brought to anyone’s attention.

The Second Reason Is the Occurrence of the Groupthink Phenomenon

In a nutshell, groupthink resembles an elevated sense of belonging to e group to the point where consensus is the ultimate goal, making everyone determined to come around a mutual decision or a plan of action.

Of course, groupthink may be the ultimate result of a bonded team. If individuals in a certain group are so aligned with each other in terms of work approach and distribution of workforces, then consensus and fast decision-making is essentially what turns out to be the best turn of events.

But chances are there could be other reasons for this phenomenon to occur and precisely those are the main topic of this article: What if groupthink occurs as a result not of great team bonding but instead of bad leadership principles leading to no one willingly sharing their thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects?

It’s Time to Evaluate Your Management Style

The silver lining is that a leader would have no difficulty realizing their team is in a groupthink chokehold. It takes only self-reflection and careful observation.

Here are several questions that might help you determine whether your leadership style may have caused this behavior:

  1. Do you often consider your opinion or point of view to be the most appropriate and truthful?
  2. Do you organize meetings with your team? How often?
  3. Do you let your team members express their opinions and expertise on different work matters?
  4. Are you willing to trust someone else’s view on things and consider their experience and expertise when making a decision?
  5. Do you let your team members be in charge of processes and tasks?
  6. Is excessive micromanagement your preferred management style?
  7. Do you frequently engage in one-to-one sessions with your employees?

I hope these questions will help you determine whether your leadership style needs further improvements. If your employees or team members don’t feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions out of fear of being rejected, their words not considered or due to a feeling of mistrust, then groupthink is certainly something you need to pay extra attention to. Otherwise, the consequences could ultimately pose a threat to the business altogether.

Groupthink Consequences and What To Do About It

In this article, we discuss groupthink in a context as a result of leadership that needs improving. So it’s only natural to pay attention to some of the consequences that it can bring to the table for businesses.

Employees need to feel heard, appreciated and cherished for who they are and what their expertise is. Them not feeling okay with disagreeing, sharing opinions and offering suggestions is a red flag in leadership that must be brought to your attention immediately. Otherwise, you might witness increased employee turnover, decreased productivity, motivation, proactivity and lost love for the job itself.

But fear not as there are several things you can do and wave groupthink a farewell for good.

You can start by creating space for open communication. Start with one on one sessions where you can ask your employees how they are feeling and whether they have concerns, suggestions or ideas. An important thing here is to help them feel your genuine concern and interest. A great downside of groupthink is that oftentimes people are scared of sharing and owning their voice. So a friendly and empathetic environment is a must.

Then you can proceed with meetings that turn out as more of a mutual discussion as opposed to self-driven monologues. Take notice of what your team has to say and follow their blueprints. Perhaps executing an idea or a suggestion is not that bad after all. Sooner rather than later, you’d witness a positive shift in your team’s workflow and results.


No one is immune to groupthink – as a matter of fact, most of the time it’s a result of not paying enough attention, instead of willingly ignoring your team’s needs and preferences.

The sooner you wrap your head around the problem, the better. Groupthink, when caused by a sense of fear and discomfort, is a horrible state for the business and can only lead to terrible consequences. Instead, try to establish a healthy professional bond with your employees where everybody would feel appreciated, important and an integral part of the company’s values and mission.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *