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All Chiefs and no Indians: Leadership in the Team Context

Apr 6, 2008
It is hard to believe that you company could be blessed with too many leaders and the possibility of that happening is indeed remote. But what do you do when you need a leader to be a follower?

The role of a leader is not fixed and changes with the needs of the organization. But not every individual leader makes a good follower when Every organization values and nurtures its leadership talent. We seek out leaders and they are essential to the growth and functioning of every organization. organizational needs require a different leader or more followers. Remember, we value and reward our leaders and there is a great deal of status and prestige attached to being a leader and when those rewards become more important than team needs you may have a problem.

Many leaders have invested a great deal of time and effort in the development of their abilities and have strived for success and the rewards it brings. These rewards are not always higher salaries but are the respect and admiration of their colleagues and coworkers. Being regarded as a leader and being placed at the helm of work teams is, for many workers, an enviable position to be in and individuals become comfortable in those roles. But just as skills vary, the organizations needs also vary and it is vital to remember that team projects need leaders whose skill sets matches the team objectives. Thus, your optimum leader will change as the team project varies.

A good manager will watch for team leaders who seem uncomfortable with sharing leadership responsibilities and the credit for team successes. When a team leader is satisfied to delegate duties but does none of the work themselves or is unwilling to help out when necessary, a manger must wonder if "leading simply for the sake of leading" has occurred. A good leader is a dynamic member of a team and shares the work load and contributes more than assigning tasks in order to achieve team goals. Part of that dynamism comes from a real commitment to team goals and objectives. Doing whatever is necessary to achieve team goals, even if that means being less of a leader and more of a participant at times, is the mark of a flexible and interactive leader.

But a leader of an operational team and a leader of a development team will vary and if your organizations strongest members are stuck in purely leadership roles they loose value by becoming inflexible. Also, it is an important part of personnel development to rotate leadership positions to give every member of your team the opportunity to lead. A mature and adjusted leader will move seamlessly between leader and follower roles and the amount of their contributions will not vary. An immature leader will resist being simply a team member when the organization requires it.

So what do you do when you have a strong and vital member of your team who can't "roll with the punches?" This is far from a judgment that this person can't function in any role necessary. A good mentorship program or strong employee counseling program can educate employees that leadership is not a position or title but a spirit of contribution and commitment. Leadership looked upon as part of a skill set that needs nurturing and encouragement to develop and mature requires training and mentoring. Don't be quick to judge this as a personality conflict. Many good leaders started out as bossy and inflexible. Early leadership assignments are far from an indicator of who is going to be a leader in the truest sense. Sometimes it takes a lot of ups and downs for someone to put organizational goals ahead of personal agendas.

Leadership mentoring can ensure that all the strong and dynamic members of your staff develop the ability to lead when asked and contribute in other ways when asked. It can also ensure that personnel conflicts are avoided and morale kept high. The beauty of the team concept is that all members of any given team are rewarded and regarded equally and a hierarchical system is averted. This is only one area where mentoring can be the determinate between success and failure. Future articles will further explore the role of mentoring in business success. But the value of mentoring in leadership development is a well established and known concept and should be pursued by every organization.
About the Author
Melissa Vokoun is a successful Business Advisor, Coach and Trainer. To learn more about the services available, please visit the website at: http://www.coachingqueen.com or call 847-392-6886.
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