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Good Teams Need Good Team Leaders

Monday 30 March, 2009
by Lindsay Adams
If you want to have successful teams in your organisation, make sure you have successful leaders. The way a team is led will have a major impact on the success - or otherwise - of the team.

In fact, when I surveyed team members as to what they wanted from their team leader, they identified the following values they would like their leader to hold:

  • Trust

    Team members want to trust and be trusted. They felt it was important to be able to trust their team leader to actually do what they said they were going to do. Of course, this works both ways - team members also want to be trusted to uphold their part of the bargain and deliver the goods when asked to do so.

    Trust is the outcome of kept promises, and something that is earned, not bought or obtained easily. Trust was the number one issue raised by team members. If they didn't trust their team leader, there was a definite lack of cohesion and ability to achieve outstanding results.
  • A commitment to their staff as well as the task

    Following on from the issue of trust, most team members were more concerned about relationships within the team before they were concerned about the tasks the team was responsible for. Feeling valued and part of the team is an important component, and allowed team members to contribute as valued individuals.

    A switched-on team leader will spend time supporting their staff and build a commitment to the team through this support. This is important when a team is formed or when a new team member joins. The team leader must never lose sight of the task, but must also never lose sight of the value of the individuals within the team.
  • The willingness to support and serve the team

    Team members want strong leadership, people who are willing to lead from the front, take responsibility and make the right decisions. Having said that, the overwhelming response to my survey was also that staff want a leader who is willing to lead from behind. By this, I mean a leader who serves the team members, to enable them to get their job done and achieve within the constraints of the organisation.

    This can sometimes be a delicate balancing act between getting the job done and catering to the needs of the individuals within the team. A leader who supports their staff by allocating appropriate resources or cutting red tape to achieve an outcome is highly valued. This may at times be at odds with the organisational culture, but again brings forward positive results in terms of productivity and loyalty.
  • Inspirational leadership, combined with energy, enthusiasm and appropriate expertise

    Team members want to be inspired and have a leader who takes them to the next level. They want to be motivated and work with a leader who has energy for the task and the team. They want to work with a leader who can do this and has the appropriate knowledge about the task at hand, to lead the team where they want to go.

    If the team leader does not have the appropriate knowledge, the leader is expected to encourage input of others from within the team. People recognise that not every leader has all the answers, but they want to know the leader is real and can draw on the knowledge and experience of the other people around them.
  • The guts to take responsibility, rather then pass the buck

    Teams and leaders are often put under a lot of pressure to achieve or perform in their organisations. Team members want a leader who will take responsibility and work to quickly fix problems if and when they arise. This process must be one where the team grows as a result of the leader's actions. This means the leader may have to admit the issue was their fault or a result of their actions.

    This is not about finding a scapegoat, it is simply about taking responsibility. Team members value leaders who are willing to admit they made a mistake and support them through the fall-out from that mistake. This action simply strengthens the team and enables them to grow together.
  • The glue to make the team come together and operate as a team

    A group of workers become a team when there is a synergy between the members of the group. Team members want to feel part of that group and be welcomed by the leader and others in the group as an equal member. The team leader may have to experiment with different styles of leadership to bring them together. Recognising the strengths and weaknesses of team members, establishing accountability and clear roles are important steps in creating this synergy amongst team members.

    A good team leader will recognise the need to adapt their style to fit the needs of the group. Once the glue is applied, the team will come together and operate well.
  • A willingness to have fun!

    Finally, the team members I surveyed unanimously wanted to have fun at work! Comments abounded about the best team leader being the one who made coming to work fun and working never seemed like a chore because it was so enjoyable. Fun is compulsory in successful teams!
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