Organizational leadership is changing. Gone are the days when most organizations embrace strict top-down hierarchies. These days the focus is on collaboration, agility, and a greater reliance on teams.
For teams to be successful, the way we think of team leadership must also change. The singular team leader as ‘stage director,' assigning roles and calling the shots, needs to make way for a shared team leadership model, in which each member of the team is responsible for leading when the business need and the team member's strengths align.
To build greater leadership on high performing teams, here are three things to think about.
Recognize the strengths on the team.
Are team members aware of each other's backgrounds, experiences, and skills? There is a
reason each team member is selected for any given team. Make sure everyone understands what that is. For every problem or situation that arises, the individual with the greatest expertise or experience should step up and drive the decision-making process so that the team can move boldly and swiftly forward. This requires that other members of the team recognize the strengths of their teammates, and understand when they themselves should take the lead, and when to follow.
Ensure diversity and inclusion on the team.
High-performing teams require diverse skills and experience. It is no good to have four homogenous team members equally able to lead certain situations but have no one to drive the others. At the same time, if your diverse team members don’t feel comfortable or valued
for the unique strengths they bring to the team, they will be less likely to express their views, and unlikely to step up to lead.
For a member of the team to take up the leadership mantle, they must have team members willing to follow or cede control, and that requires respect. One way to foster respect on a team is for people to appreciate and acknowledge each other. Try building acknowledgment into your team culture by making time for celebrating wins and the people who helped get the team there. Encourage team members to acknowledge one another's contributions and ensure everyone is specific in their feedback.
When the team recognizes and values the individual strengths of its members, and there is mutual respect, team leadership can become everyone’s responsibility. And when that happens, the team becomes empowered to work at their highest level.