Diversity, conflict, and systems leadership in project groups: a longitudinal study



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Texas Tech University


The changing demography of the workforce has made group composition the most actively researched determinant of group effectiveness. The present study examined the effects of a major aspect of group composition, group diversity, on intragroup conflict and group performance. The majority of research on group diversity has considered diversity to be stable and objective. This study proposed a model of diversity that emphasized its perceptual and transient nature. It was postulated that different types of diversity would be salient at different times in a group's life and that these different types of diversity would trigger different group processes. Further, the model proposed in this study incorporated systems leadership, which enabled diverse groups to avoid the unfavorable effects of diversity while reaping its benefits.

Seventy-six student project teams in the capstone Strategic Management class offered in the college of business administration of a large southwestern state university participated in a longitudinal survey study to test specific hypotheses derived from the proposed model. The results indicated that diversity had a transient nature and that the salience of different forms of diversity changed throughout groups' development. Also, it was found that different forms of diversity led to different types of conflict, which in turn influenced group performance. Finally, it was found that systems leadership moderated between diversity and conflict.