School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Barbara Boothe

Primary Subject Area

Education, Administration


Administration, College, complex, Leadership, Simple, Team


Diversity of knowledge and multiple perspectives are characteristic advantages of group leadership as compared to transactional or bureaucratic forms of leadership. When groups are engaged in administrative functions, they are more likely to realize a higher level of performance and more relevant and innovative solutions than may be achieved by a single administrator. Existing research on administrative groups primarily assessed decision-making and functional performance from an either/or perspective, yet both simple and complex thinking and functioning have been found to exist concurrently within organizations and groups. This study examined administrative group leadership in three small, private colleges in the state of Tennessee to determine if the administrative officers functioned as a working group, a real team, or a combination of both. Utilizing a multiple-site qualitative case study, 22 administrators at three institutions were interviewed and observed in an administrative group meeting. When compared to three models of group complexity (thinking roles, frames of reference, and functional domains) the interview responses of two of the administrative groups indicated functional and cognitive complexity. However, the observations of the group meetings demonstrated characteristics representative of working groups. Consequently, there appeared to be strong evidence that the administrative groups of these two institutions combined simple elements of working groups with complex interactions characteristic of real teams. In contrast, the group observation and interview responses of the administrative team at the third institution confirmed the existence of a real team.