To fully understand cultural evolution and the role of leadership in that evolution, we have to begin with a bit of group theory. Culture is ultimately a characteristic of a group, just as personality and character are ultimately characteristics of an individual. Just as personality theory is relevant to understanding individuals, group dynamics theories and models are relevant to understanding culture. Founders of groups and organizations may not be aware of the dynamic issues they are grappling with, but those issues are there and need to be considered as determinants of the kind of culture that ends up being created.

A Model of How Culture Forms in New Groups

Groups have been studied intensively throughout history, but it is only in the post–World War II years that social psychologists led by Kurt Lewin in the United States and Wilfred Bion of the Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom began to formulate concepts that could be applied widely to all kinds of new and old groups (Lewin, 1947; Bion, 1959). In the United States this model of the stages of group evolution was well summarized by Bennis & Shepard (1956) and was then later described “poetically” by Tuchman (1965) as forming, storming, norming, and performing. The underlying psycho-dynamic logic is discussed in the following subsections.

Stage 1, Forming: Finding One’s Identity and Role

The group is brought together for some purpose such as “learning” ...

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