Leaders And Outliers – Michael Grinder & Associates

Leaders and Outliers

The insight about a leader’s reputation starts with understanding how people are different. We are all familiar with “life is not fair.” This blog explains how a leader’s unfair reputation as a manager is unfair. Unfair in that how the leader manages most people has nothing to do with the leader’s reputation.

An individual has many layers or circles.


These same Circles can be used to detail how people are categories in a group setting.

Groups have norms, and these norms change based on the level of Formness. When a group is gathering for the first time they are UNFORMED. The individuals don’t know each other so appearances are the only distinctions between people. There is a sense that 80% of the people fit a common norm.



As members become acquainted with each other, the norm of Appearances is replaced with Behaviors; as the groups becomes more Formed, the norm progresses to Styles, and eventually to Values.


When the leader interacts with the outliers the group notes those interactions more than when the leader interacts with the 80%ers. Because the group notices the leaders’ exchanges with outliers, the reputation of the leader as a manager is based on how the leader handles the outliers. If the leader gives too much positive attentions to the positive outliers, the leader is seen as playing favorites. Likewise, if the leader manages the negative outliers disproportionally, the leader is perceived as practicing scapegoats.


4 thoughts on “Leaders and Outliers”

    1. In speaking with Michael about this, he said: “Great question. There are too many variables for a simple answer, may we suggest studying the books regarding group dynamics: for educators, ‘A Healthy Classroom’ and for adult-to-adult communication, ‘Managing Groups: The Fast Track’.”

  1. As -outliers diminish in number as the group forms as unified, is ignoring the -outliers a positive or negative action. In other words, by not watering rocks do the rocks set in place as their behavior becomes the normalized expectation of the 80% and +outliers?

    1. Hi John,
      In talking with Michael, he said, “Thank you for being a fan of our work – we trust you are profiting from the books. As an Unformed group becomes Formed and experiences moments of “healthy” the criteria changes as to who are the outliers progresses from “Appearances” to Behaviors to Styles and sometimes to Values. The outliers only decrease in numbers when the Formed and Functional groups experience “healthy moments.” Hope that helps!

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