The area of team leadership attracts a lot of attention in the modern world because of the need to assemble and deploy diverse teams for the completion of projects. The future of many corporations relies more and more on the kind of team leadership they have for their projects. This paper explores a number of facets that constitute effective team leadership.
There are certain essential elements that constitute the definition of leadership. It may refer to the totality of an organization’s top direction-giving functionaries, or the actions applied in providing direction that enables the organization or team to move forward towards a goal. In reality, there are very diverse definitions of leadership depending on the context.
Grint’s (2010) summary of leadership definitions that includes the position, the person, the results, and the process, provides a comprehensive view of leadership. While not absolute, this view covers much of the areas where there is consensus on the definition of leadership.
Concept of Leadership
The concept of leadership arises out of the need for cooperative action by human beings to achieve certain goals. Leadership seeks to identify and deploy the groups’ pooled resources to tackle problems in order to achieve set objectives.
While human beings are independent and capable of individual action, there are many situations in real life that require dependence on one person or a small group of people who have a broad view of the intervening issues enabling them to direct the actions of the rest of the individuals. The degree of success from this effort is a measure of the leadership skill present within a team.
Characteristics of Leadership
All leadership, formal or informal, will have at least the following three characteristics. The first characteristic is that leadership emerges to address a certain challenge. Secondly, leadership develops a vision and sells it to the followers, which thereafter, serves as a rallying cry and becomes the means of keeping the group together.
This vision attracts would-be followers to join in the effort to alleviate the challenge. Thirdly, it is characteristic of leadership to possess the skills required to harness the resources that a group brings together and to apply those resources in alleviating the challenge in order to deliver the vision.
Importance of Leadership
Without leadership, a team lacks direction and cohesion. Leadership is there to solve challenges associated with teamwork and to insure the attainment of the main objective of the team effort. Leadership reduces the risks associated with a project.
This happens because the person or team providing direction for the project do not get involved in detailed implementation freeing them to see the big picture from which they identify and reduce or eliminate risks. Leadership increasingly means the difference between a successful project and a failed one despite the availability of resources. This is because of the role leadership plays in the effective allocation of resources to achieve the projects objectives.
Impact of Leadership in an Organization
On organization is the legacy of its past leaders. This means that all decisions a leader made while in charge live on through the systems he established, the opportunities he seized, and the mistakes he made. In team leadership, the outcome of the team effort depends on the skill the leader possesses empowering the team to wade through difficult terrain. In many cases, the difference between two organizations with similar resources is difference in the quality of their leadership.
Leadership and Communication
There are four reasons why communication is a critical element of leadership. It is through communication that a leader passes on the vision and attracts followers to participate in its attainment. Secondly, through communication, a leader is able to keep everyone informed on issues that require their attention to ensure they fulfill their mandate effectively. If team members fail to understand the intent of their task, their motivation to undertake it suffers (Lai, Chi, & Yang, 2010).
Thirdly, through communication, a leader provides and receives feedback from all members thereby providing opportunity for adjustments to strategy to ensure that the whole team is on course. Finally, a leader uses communication to reach out to external parties as the voice of the team. This becomes important when there is a need to interact with parties who have an interest or can influence the outcome of the project.
Leadership and Motivation
It is the duty of the team leader to keep the team members motivated. This requires that the team leader understands the personal goals of the team members. Many times, before anyone joins a team, they assess how the overall team goal interacts with their personal goals and the greater the degree of congruence, the stronger their resolve to join and stick with the team. As part of keeping the team motivated, the leader requires a reward system that recognizes and rewards top performers.
However, every member of the team will require some form of personal motivation to remain focused on the attainment of the team’s objectives. In addition, the performance of team members relies on their leader’s confidence in them (Silver & Silver, 2006). Their performance compares to the level of expectation and confidence their leader has in them.
Theories of Leadership
Several theories seek to explain the phenomenon of leadership. The trait theory focuses on personal traits a person has as the benchmark for good leadership. Behavioral theory takes the view that leadership is a set of teachable behaviors that anyone can learn. Contingency theory embraces situational leadership, which says that different circumstances dictate leadership requirements, and a leader should be able to fit in. ”
This theory suggests that the best action of the leader depends on a range of situational factors, including motivation and capability of followers” (Frawley, 2009). Other theories focusing on the nature of leadership include transformational leadership, which brings far-reaching changes to an organization.
Lopez-Zafra, Garcia-Retamero, and Landa (2008) contend that this type of leadership has a close relationship with emotional intelligence. There is also the theory of invitational leadership. Here, the leader presents an amicable front. Finally, there is transactional leadership that focuses on systems and processes and how to make them more efficient.
Types of Leadership Styles
Three major leadership styles come out in the discussion of team leadership. There is autocratic leadership where the leader reserves the power to make decisions and normally seeks very little input from the team members. It is useful during emergencies where loss of time may mean loss of life or opportunities.
On the other extreme, there is the Laissez-faire leadership where the team has no centralized control whatsoever. This works well in places requiring where high levels of creativity. Between the two, there is the more popular democratic style, which attempts to balance input and control between the team leader and the team members.
Important Keys to Leadership
There are two important keys for all leaders. One of them is the source of authority that they exercise over the team members. It is better to exercise relational authority as opposed to positional authority because in many instances, “Leaders often lack the authority that usually comes with a position” (Parker, 2009).
People respond better when persuaded by the leader as opposed to when they receive directions to carry out a task. The second key is a steady focus on the team’s objectives. As a leader, it is very easy to wander from the key objectives of the team effort especially driven by the personal goals of more influential and persuasive members of the team.
How to be an Effective Team Leader
Effective leadership is a learned process. The commitment to improve over time is the single most important way of becoming a more effective leader. After the assignment of the goals and the resources of a project, the results will depend on the effectiveness of the leader. There are two parts of leadership.
There is the technical side that requires good management skills on areas such as finances, planning, and evaluation. The other part is the relational side that requires a good understanding of people and determines the leader’s capacity to inspire and motivate. A commitment to grow continually in these two areas will make any leader effective.
How to Build Teamwork and Avoid Conflict with Coworkers
When a leader understands the stages through which a team grows, he will have an easier time building teamwork and in the process, he will minimize conflict among team members. When the team is forming, the leader needs to concentrate on the building of trust among team members because by then, conflicts will be fewer. When the team reaches the storming stage, the team leader needs to allow for open disagreements, but always guide them through to compromises between team members.
At the norming stage, the team leader’s focus should be on clarifying the objectives of the team effort and ensuring all the team members fully understand their role in the team effort. Finally, when the team gets to the performing stage, the team leader’s role becomes one of motivation and performance measurement.
In conclusion, every team leader will do well to always bear in mind that, “people are a valued resource and understanding and developing them is essential for good leadership” (Jones, 2006).
Frawley, J. (2009). Intercultural and Sustainable Leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies , 39-46.
Grint, K. (2010). Leadership: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jones, K. W. (2006). Impact Leadership. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press.
Lai, J.-Y., Chi, H.-J., & Yang, C.-C. (2010). Task Value, Goal Orientation, and EMployee Job Satisfaction in High-Tech Firms. African Journal of Business Management , 75-77.
Lopez-Zafra, E., Garcia-Retamero, R., & Landa, J. M. (2008). The Role of Transformational Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and Group Cohesiveness on Leadership Emergence. Journal of Leadership Studies , 37-49.
Parker, G. (2009). Team Leadership: 20 Proven Tools for Success. Amherst MA: Human Resource Developement.
Silver, L., & Silver, D. (2006). Role of Implicit Personality Theory in Leadership Research. Journal of Business and Leadership:Research, Practice and Reaching , 108-115.