The phenomenon known as the “Stage Fright Paradox” highlights an interesting psychological quirk: people often feel more nervous in front of a small audience than a large one. Mike Brown, writing for Lifehack, humorously explains this paradox by suggesting that with a larger audience, each member absorbs a smaller portion of your nervousness. So, imagine if your company, business, or workplace were a place where “everybody knows your name,” and the stakes of small group interactions were even higher.
However, building such familiarity and trust in small group settings can be challenging, especially when corporate pressure and unethical demands seep into leadership. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducted a comprehensive survey involving over 14,500 employees across the nation, revealing that nearly a quarter of respondents felt pressured by their superiors to engage in activities they knew were ethically wrong. For example, some participants shared instances where, in the absence of corporate oversight, their bosses encouraged them to manipulate records to create a false image of their store’s performance. This kind of leadership, driven by corporate demands, can erode trust within small groups and undermine overall efficiency.
For ethical leadership to flourish, trust and rapport are indispensable. Research such as the study on “Intimidation in Small Learning Groups” by Marina Micari and Denise Drane reveals valuable insights. This study explored social comparison and self-efficacy within small learning groups and found that in some cases, small group work can exacerbate academic anxieties, particularly those related to individuals’ perceived abilities in comparison to their peers. Interestingly, these anxieties don’t always correlate with prior academic preparation, as even students with lower academic backgrounds (measured by SAT math scores or GPAs) might not feel more intimidated than their peers. These findings can be relevant to group leaders or managers, suggesting that they may also experience feelings of inadequacy when leading ethically in small group settings.
Overcoming these fears, particularly in the context of ethical leadership, involves a direct approach. One therapeutic method, recommended by the American Psychological Association, is exposure therapy. In this technique, individuals safely confront their fears to reduce anxiety and avoidance. To ease the process, consider reframing fear as excitement when dealing with these situations, and develop strategies for maintaining ethical standards and promoting positive practices within your small group settings. Here are holistic leadership suggestions:
Ultimately, as a leader, it’s vital to ensure that your personal morals and values align with those you communicate to your team. Consistency in ethical leadership creates a lasting impact and fosters a habitual commitment to morality and ethics. Aristotle’s wisdom, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit,” underlines the importance of consistently striving for ethical excellence, both in your professional and personal life. This commitment ensures that you and your team maintain a strong moral and ethical code across diverse small group settings.
Here’s a list of sources that will help build your leadership!
Employee Wellness Platforms – Here is a list of the top 10 best employee wellness platforms. As a small group leader, this may be something to discuss with either your higher-ups to implement in your company or your small team separately.
4-7-8 Breathing – Here is a YouTube link to a video that will guide you through 4-7-8 breathing. Bookmark for when needed!
4 Simple Questions to Ask when Making Ethical Decisions – This resource provides a list of questions to ask yourself, “Is this ethical” before making a decision that will impact you and your small group.
Outback Team Building – Outback Team Building is the number corporate team building in North America. This resource provides fun team-building activities that help you get to know your employees so that you can better understand their backgrounds, identity, personality, and interests and know how to lead ethically with additive knowledge of understanding your team first.
Indeed – Code of Ethics – This resource addresses how to make a code of ethics with your group. Use this resource to guide yourself through a productive session of setting standards and asking your group what they want to add.
On Intersectionality: Essential Writings – Link to the book “On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” by Kimberlee Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality, explaining this idea’s importance.
Loom – Ethics – Loom, an screen recording application used widely by businesses and professionals, discusses the ethics of remote teamwork and what to keep in mind. This resource is helpful because of all the activities, meetings, and events that can be done remotely or virtually for any setting, work, or personal.
Brooke Deterline TED Talk – A Ted talk about ethical culture in the workplace by Brooke Deterline. The Corporate Director of the Heroic Imagination Project has “a mission to use important findings in psychology to equip ordinary people of all ages with the knowledge, skills, and strategies necessary to choose wise and effective acts of heroism during challenging moments in their lives.”
Reducing bias – Five tips by the U.S. Department of Justice for reducing bias.
This piece was edited by Lily Cook as part of Professor Kelley Crawford’s Digital Civic Engagement course at Tulane University.