12 Leadership Qualities of an Exceptional Team-builder
Imagine trying to build a shed by buying some 2x4s, a bag of nails and a hammer. Then you start pounding together the wood, with no plan or sketch, no measurements, and no thoughtful consideration of how to transform the image in your head into a solid, well-built and handsome shed. NOT pretty.
Too many team-builders fail because of a lack of forethought. Before you begin to lead others effectively, it’s important that you have a complete picture of the qualities you will be offering the team through your leadership. Do a very basic review. Ask people who report to you, your boss, and some of your peers to evaluate your ability to build or rebuild a team. Consider doing a formal leadership assessment. This can help you focus on some of the strengths and development areas before you begin the team-building process.
Here are twelve leadership qualities important for great team-building
- Displays self-awareness
- Listens well
- Expresses self well
- Manages conflict skillfully
- Acts with empathy
- Displays ability to develop others
- Engages role with self-confidence
- Possesses organizational awareness
- Acts as a catalyst for change
- Maintains optimism
- Is adaptable
- Engages others appropriately to keep them focused
These are the skills that leaders need in nearly all team-building situations. However, teamwork is a value, not an action. None of these skills work effectively unless a leader believes in the power of people. Ken Blanchard says, “None of us is smart as all of us.”
Although all teams need a leader who has a strong sense of self, how that leader expresses it may be very different in each group. For example:
- The new team may be so full of anticipation that the leader will have to both listen to the rapid-fire input and speak well enough to hold the attention of an eager group.
- The leader who is fixing a problem team needs optimism, organizational awareness, a sense of urgency, and self-confidence to demonstrate credibility and strength. The leader of a team that needs to be revitalized like this also requires skills for catalyzing change and energizing the members, as well as heavy doses of motivational expertise.
- The Virtual team requires a leader who has technical skills and exceptional leadership that will keep faceless participants engaged. Many teams today are separated by distance and seldom meet face to face. Use of intranets, video-conferencing, document sharing and other technologies are crucial to their success.
For all of these teams, having a title (for example, Oz, The Great and Powerful) may not be enough. Credibility is more than a title. It’s the subtext of the office grapevine that indicates you’ve done the work, you are to be trusted and you can deliver.
The leader of teams has to be and to do. The leader has to be many things to many people–a catalyst, a good communicator, and self-assured. They also have a long list of things to do. They need to create and inspire a common purpose for all members of the team to rally around. They need to be sure that the right people are on that team by either choosing them or developing the skills to make them good team players. They also need to be certain that the team has the tools and resources to get the goal accomplished. There is nothing more frustrating to a team than to be close to a great accomplishment and then find that the financial support isn’t there or the support staff isn’t available to help them.
Great leaders create an environment for teams by pushing just hard enough to get the work done in a timely manner and providing a sense of play and accomplishment. They also run interference with the rest of the world so the team can concentrate. They make sure that input from the outside is integrated so the team isn’t working in isolation. Then, by monitoring progress, the leader ensures that the goal is reached on time and as promised. Team leaders make a promise to deliver: what you promise to do, what you won’t take on, who will be part of that promise, how you will do that work, and how you will share that information. It’s your charter and it requires engagement. This applies to cross-functional team projects or to a team that works on several projects over time. It is a way of organizing your thoughts and keeping you on track.
So, You’re Going to Lead a Team: A New Team Leader Case Study
Troy was hired by the organization that was first on his list after college. After a little time spent in a small cube they promoted him to manager, moved him to an extra large cube, and gave him an assistant and a direct report. Troy did so well on a couple of projects they offered him a “real” office, a promotion and a team! He was thrilled. How hard could it be to put together a team and produce a product in six months?
That’s not the end of the story for Troy as he struggled to get results, and may not be the situation you are in, but consider these key questions that may determine your success as a team-builder:
- What do you need to learn to lead a team successfully?
- How can you enhance your skills, to start from nothing and build a productive, collaborative team?
- What changes do you need to make to inclusively design a project plan that exceeds expectations?
- What do you need to learn to facilitate more engaging group activity and meetings?
- What are you willing to change to be able to repair a damaged or weary team? (See my post, 6 Turnaround Tactics for a Failing Team)
Being asked to lead a team is a big career step. For some it means going from peer or co-worker to becoming the boss of those co-workers. It means you’ve been singled out as someone who has credibility and leadership skills.
Historically, bosses got groups to work together by ultimatum. “We need this—make it happen.” Or worse, the boss just gave the directive and employees did her bidding. Now our experience and research concludes that the wealth of experience and knowledge of employees is crucial to a team’s success. Today, great leaders use the team approach to resolve even the most difficult organizational issues. A genuine team approach requires a leader who understands the value of having different voices come together to achieve a clear goal. It means teaching people about teamwork. This works marvelously when team members unselfishly contribute their best, and this depends on the leader. Famed US soccer player Mia Hamm said, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”