Great leaders DO! (Post #4 in Team Leadership Series)

Leaders do!

Great leaders do!

In this short series on team leadership, I’ve argued that teams in the church need good leadership more than they need to identify set leaders, thus we should focus less on formal, positional leadership and more on what leaders actually do.

So, here are 10 things great team “leaders/influencers/impact players” (choose your favorite term) do.  Great team leaders:

  1. Structure the team for success.  Team leaders cannot force a team to become great; rather, they can help put the pieces together and encourage greatness.  Great team leaders focus on structuring and facilitating productive group communication.
  2. Establish a clear, compelling, challenging, and consequential vision and purpose.  Effective teams commonly aim toward a North Star.  Good leaders facilitate processes to cast and clarify vision and what the team will do to get there.
  3. Get the right people on the team.  Great team leaders take team membership seriously, but not too seriously.  Getting the right people on the bus won’t solve all your problems, but it will help.  Usually, the right people possess essential skills and abilities related to the team’s purpose (in a balance with others), a strong desire to contribute to the vision, and the capability to collaborate effectively.
  4. Facilitate goal setting in pursuit of the team’s vision.  Great leaders break down lofty vision into manageable chunks by setting specific, time-bound goals.
  5. Set priorities and focus on achieving team goals.  Great leaders don’t play politics, don’t focus on relationships at the expense of task accomplishment, don’t make everything a priority, and don’t drown the team in a bunch of unimportant drivel.  They laser-focus on accomplishing goals.
  6. Ensure a collaborative climate among the group.  Teams are able to work together.  Leaders help that happen.  Leaders help set team ground rules (norms), encourage (and demand, at times) other team members to act cooperatively and work out their differences, recognize and reward collaborative behaviors, and facilitate honest and respectful discussions.
  7. Unleash talent by allowing others to do real workGreat team leaders realize others can do many things better than they can, so they step back and let them do it.  This isn’t giving power away, or empowerment.  It’s self-control.
  8. Do real work themselves.  Great leaders don’t just supervise, coordinate, or delegate tasks.  They do real work for which other team members can hold them accountable.  Remember, much of what people learn is “caught, not taught”.  What are others “catching” from your leadership?
  9. Employ thoughtful, careful procedures for solving problems, making decisions, and innovating. Great leaders realize that unstructured, free-flowing discussion is problematic, and insist on intentional, structured conversations when making decisions or generating and vetting new ideas.
  10. Manage performance.  Great leaders hold team members accountable to team goals and norms.  They require results by making performance expectations clear, review results by giving constructive feedback and resolving performance issues, and reward results by recognizing superior performance.

Remember: Anyone on a team, whether a designated leader or not, can do any and all of these 10 things. 

Reflection Moment:

Which of these 10 things could you do to enhance your positive influence on your team?

This is the fourth post in a summer series on leadership. Next week, I’m going on a mission trip with several students from APU, so I won’t post again until August.  When I get back, I’ll continue this series and further unpack team leadership, both biblically and empirically.  To subscribe and get the posts delivered directly to your email, simply sign-up here.

For further reading, you might check out:

  • Hackman, J. R. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1999). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. New York, NY: Harper Business.
  • LaFasto, F. M. J., & Larson, C. E. (2001). When teams work best. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Larson, C. E., & LaFasto, F. M. J. (1989). TeamWork: What must go right/what can go wrong. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Wheelan, S. A. (2010). Creating effective teams: A guide for members and leaders (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

One Comment

  1. Tim July 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Because you aren’t here right now, I thought now would be a good time to post. xD
    When you say that teams toward a North Star, do you mean something that can be seen? If so, what about goals that cannot be seen by all? (e.g. a counseling center that cannot reveal any info about mentees by law) If not, what do you mean?

    Also, getting the right people. In your opinion (or if this a solid answer), where do you draw the line between “good attitude, bad skills” and “bad attitude, good skills”? That is, how bad do skills need to be before they’re cut? I know there’s a verse in Proverbs that mentions this dynamic.

    Finally, on “anyone can do any or all of these things, whether a designated leader or not”, I’m not sure how that would work. If everyone managed performance or everyone tried to break down the loft goals, then it would seemly get chaotic. It seems like a few of these should only have the senior leader(s) do.

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