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The Seventh Outer-Core Competency: Team Leadership
The 7th outer-core leadership competency, team leadership, builds upon other competencies such as communication, integrity, and emotional intelligence. Good team leaders recognize the role of a positive team culture as the indispensable backdrop for all the other team leadership elements.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford.
In a functional team, there is less “me” and more “we.”
The Strength of a Team is More than the Sum of Its Members’ Abilities
Successful teams are the building blocks of successful organizations. Individual talent may sometimes win the day, but sustainable organizational success settles for nothing less than consistent and effective teamwork.
It is up to the leader to master team leadership, turning a motley patchwork of disparate personalities and talents into a unit capable of successfully executing simple tasks and complex business strategies. As I have pointed out in my book Intelligent Leadership, teams will work as long as someone establishes some degree of interdependence among their members and sets some common goals. This is, however, the bare minimum. For a team to qualify as a high-performing unit, it needs proper team leadership, vision, purpose, specific culture, well-defined structure, and the right combination of talent.
Effective teams also create high-performance output in the form of products or services. This element serves as the validation of the high-performing status of the team.
Goals of Good Team Leadership
Good team leaders strive to attain some well-defined goals:
- A limiting factor in team performance is the quality of the talent it can attract. Leaders should aim to create an environment where employees want to work.
- Team architecture allows employees to avoid confusion and dithering by giving a clear structure to every aspect of work.
- Team leadership is about providing a consistent direction for the team through fair authority.
- In addition to direction, team leadership creates a vision and a purpose for the team. Like a lower-level version of the organizational vision, the team-level vision promotes alignment with the team and organizational goals.
- The team culture acts as a framework holding together all the elements of team leadership. This culture is the word- and action-based expression of an environment that values employees, leveraging their strengths and actively attending to their developmental needs.
- The result of intelligent team leadership is a quality product or service that validates it.
These constituents provide an accurate cross-section view of quality team leadership. However, an intelligent leader can still improve his/her team-leading abilities by paying attention to a few additional factors:
- Efficient resource allocation, closely observed performance standards, and perfect alignment between vision and strategy fit well into the quality team leadership paradigm.
- A good team leader also focuses on designing workable, realistic plans while being flexible and ready to course-correct.
- Associating development opportunities with ongoing accountability is another way to improve team leadership, as is the equitable rewarding of high performance.
Opportunity goes hand-in-hand with accountability.
- A good team leader knows how to monitor the work performance and interactions of a team without micromanaging.
- Instituting feedback loops based on the evaluation of results and the immediate integration of conclusions into work boosts team performance and synergy.
Good team leaders are also confident, well-organized, respectful, and decisive. Many of them are born facilitators. They listen more than they speak, ask open-ended questions, assume a neutral stance in disagreements, and help defuse disputes.
Team leadership also requires good communication skills and the ability to empower through delegation.