Overuse of Leadership and Teams?
My main business focus is on innovation and project management. Over the years, I have noted that the word “innovation” is often over-used. Unfortunately, the words “team” and “leadership” are also often mis-used or abused.
What is a Team?
Teams are groups of people, bound together by a common purpose to create a specific outcome or result. Each member of the team has unique characteristics and skills. The team could not accomplish its results without the varied inputs of the members. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the individuals.
Sports teams are natural examples. A football team has a shared purpose to win games or a championship. The members have unique skills — some play defense and some play offense. Some individuals are big and muscular, serving as linemen, while others are lean and fast, playing the position of a receiver. A football team cannot exist without the unique roles that each individual plays and they synchronously to achieve their goals (literally).
What is Not a Team?
Teams are not random groups of people put together to do a task. This is where I believe the word “team” gets abused. A group of people that get together, even with a common thread of interest, is not a team.
One typical example of the mis-use of the work “team” is when we really mean a “work group.” Here a group of people share a common skill set, say sales engineering, and we call them a “team”. Each person in the group might work with different clients and on different projects with different target due dates and objectives. The group shares a common professional title but is not united to tackle a singular challenge.
What is Leadership?
need followers. Remember the game follow-the-leader from childhood? Often one kid really stood out as a good “leader” because he balanced adventure with skill. Business and engineering leaders also balance development of their team members with learning and application.
A good leader can manage schedules, budgets, and administrative tasks. But that view is limiting. A great leader adapts her management style to the situation that each team member faces. Successful leaders motivate, encourage, and drive learning and growth.
I have always loved Ken Blanchard’s model of Situational Leadership for this reason. Each person on a team is unique! They are at different places in their professional journeys, so we need to inspire them to achieve their best with different motivators and encouragements. For instance, a new hire just graduated from college will need mentoring and technical skills development while a 20-year employee needs confidence to take on leadership roles himself.
What is Not Leadership?
Leadership in not management. Though a good leader can manage administrative tasks well, a leader’s role is much broader and more compassionate. Many organizations today mis-use the word “leadership” when they really mean “management”.
For example, I am familiar with a large corporation that has established “leadership teams”. Ugh! The groups are comprised of senior managers and executives that make project, budget, and hiring decisions. The group does not have natural followers and serves a purely management function. I would argue they are neither “leaders” nor a “team” since each participating manager has independent goals for his or her functional area (marketing, operations, and R&D).
Teams and Leadership: The Take-Aways
Words matter, as we are told, and our actions must align with the speed we employ. Employees and staff in our organizations recognize a false effort to energize workers or to whitewash hierarchy by calling a directive management group a “leadership team”.
However, an honest and authentic leader can motivate and encourage a team by helping each individual grow his or her skills, learn to build on their strengths, and work toward a common purpose.
Leaders help teams become better by balancing skills and characteristics so that the output is greater than what each person could produce individually. Leaders demonstrate good administrate skills but also encourage growth and learning for the whole team as it strives for a common purpose. Moreover, leaders recognize setbacks as opportunities for improvement and not as failures.
Your Next Steps to Build Real Leadership Teams
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281–280–8717 to learn more about Situational Team Leadership. If you are in the position of leading a virtual team, please check out our courses and coaching at Simple-PDH.com as well as Chapter 6 in PDMA Essentials Volume 3. Finally, if you are a CIO (chief innovation officer) or NPD (new product development) manager, you will be interested in the Innovation Master Mind (IMM) group. IMM is a 6-month peer coaching group that allows you to extend your NPD knowledge beyond NPDP certification and to collaborate with other CIOs and innovation managers.
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This was first published on the blog at www.Simple-PDH.com.