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Team leadership

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Leadership styles and things to think about when developing the skills of a team leader.

Team leadership plays a major part in a team’s success or failure. Leading a small operations team may not compare with the challenges of leading a large complex organisation. However it is worth viewing it in the context of leadership in general.

Team leaders need to be able to:

  • quickly unite a team/organisation around new or revised goals in a fast changing environment
  • take on board diverse and often strongly held views amongst funders, trustees, staff, service users and partner agencies in developing strategy
  • develop innovative teams who can quickly take advantage of new opportunities
  • preserve team spirit and optimism in times of resource scarcity.

There are many different approaches to leadership that link team development with high performance. For example, John Adair’s action-centred leadership model (explained in Leadership gurus), outlines three major leadership functions – achieving the task, developing the individual and building the team. These three functions are interdependent: you can’t achieve one without the others.

Leadership style

The style adopted by the leader will have a major impact on the performance of the team. Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model suggests that leaders should adopt a different style depending on each given situation and the development level of the team.

Teams go through stages of development as they move from ‘forming’ to maturity. A major role for the leader is to help the team develop through stages until they reach high performance. Helping teams through these stages includes adapting your leadership style. In the early stages a more directive approach helps to build safety, trust and confidence in the leader’s ability. As teams become more effective, a more participative style of leadership becomes appropriate. Responsibility and leadership can be shared amongst team members.

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said of leadership:

As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.  The next best, the people honour and praise.  The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate.  When the best leader’s work is done the people say ‘we did it ourselves’.’’

Developing team leadership skills

The Leadership section suggests skills for leadership including:

  • building trust
  • demonstrating courage
  • challenging
  • providing focus
  • communicating effectively.

Can these skills be learnt?

Many words have been written on whether leadership is an inherent quality or a set of skills that can be learned. The huge number of leadership development programmes in existence suggests that leadership skills can certainly be learnt given the right conditions. Through developing these skills we can also enhance less tangible leadership qualities such as personal awareness, presence, self-confidence.

Useful links

Page last edited Jun 23, 2017

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