Because there are so many different types of situations that could land you in a group leader position, it is difficult to give a surefire method to success. There are simple steps, however, that can have you prepared to lead a group, and a few exercises that will calm your nerves and better enhance your confidence should you find yourself acting as a group leader.
Step one in presenting yourself as a strong group leader is preparedness. Most people will find themselves in a position to lead a group in a work environment, such as a presentation or meeting. Therefore, it is vital that you prepare well; if your group sees that you are not knowledgeable or unprepared, you may lose their attention, or worse -- their respect. Have your notes organized, any presentation materials ready and clearly presented, and any electronics -- such as computers -- set up in advance and ready to be used.
The key to being an effective group leader is remembering that you, too, are a part of the group. In other words, you are part of a team -- just think of yourself as the captain of that team. You are a major part of the group, but not the only part. Therefore, it is vital that you involve each member of the group in whatever activity you are facilitating. If you ignore certain members of the group -- or worse, the entire group -- you can be assured that they will ignore you, too. Draw them into the conversation and encourage them to express their opinions. When facilitating a discussion group, as the group leader you should talk less than anyone else in the group. You are a guide, not a lecturer.
The flip side to that idea is keeping the group under control. Sometimes a conversation can get out of hand or off track, and as the group leader, it is your job to reel everybody back in and refocus their attention. A group leader is, among other things, a manager: a manager of time, of topics, of the mood and tone, and of group dynamics. In this sense, think of yourself as a chef making a good sauce: once you have added the ingredients, you must monitor the overall product to make sure it is turning out the way you want it. If the sauce needs more salt -- or if your discussion needs more focus -- add to taste.
Most of all, remember that your group will look to you for answers. Make sure you are prepared enough to answer them when they come up. They will also look to you as a model for what -- or what not -- to do. Leading by example is vital to becoming a strong group leader, and your attitudes and actions will reflect in what the rest of your group is doing or saying.