Leadership and Work Teams

Guest post from Simon Mac Rory:
you work in an organization today as a leader you will lead a team. 90% of what
we do in an organization happens through collaborative effort, making the team
the most important production unit.
two years (2016 and 2017) Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends survey has
positioned organizational redesign as the number one concern for businesses. In
2016 they termed this the ‘Rise of Teams’ and 2017 ‘The Organization of the
Future – Arriving Now’. Bottom line, organizations are seeking to reconstitute
themselves as a network of teams, ditching the traditional hierarchy. This
makes teamwork even more crucial to overall success or failure for the
rhetoric surrounding this critical aspect of work tends to indicate that
organizations and senior leaders are champions of teamwork and that they have
the team ‘nut’ cracked – the reality however, points to a very different
is estimated that only 10% of teams can truly be deemed high performing, 40%
are dysfunctional and detrimental to team members experience. The balance of
50% can at best be described as performing marginally and never producing more
than incremental results. For me, the success and effectiveness of any team
starts and ends with the leader. In my experience of working with and coaching
work teams, the best, most effective teams always seem to have the best and
most effective leaders.  If this premise
and the figures above are accepted it would suggest that only 10% of team
leaders are high performing, enabling their teams, whilst 40% of leaders are
failing in their leadership tasks, whilst the remaining 50% are barely holding
in there!
of the trouble for the struggling team leader starts with the belief that teams
are there to support their leader.  
Nothing could be
further from the truth and the converse is the needed reality – leaders are
there to support their teams. This is what is referred to as the inverted
hierarchy. Leaders are at the bottom of the pyramid supporting those in the
team above them and not the other way around. This is a ‘get over it already’
moment. As a team leader the only means you have to success is in the success
of your team. The more successful they are, the more success for you. Your job
is to get all the barriers to team performance out of the way. You ensure that
the team has what it needs, and you go to bat for the team always. Your job is
to deliver strategy and structure for the team and it is the team that delivers
output, quality and customer satisfaction. The alternative is that you as
leader do everything, believe that you have all the answers and the rest of the
team become your audience whilst you perform.
Welsh famously said
“Before you are a
leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader,
success is all about growing others”.  Great team leaders intuitively recognize
this. This means being prepared to delegate, to empower and then to coach and
support as necessary. It also means that as a leader you must recognize that
the team is comprised of individuals and that each has separate, unique needs
and operate at differing levels of ability and confidence. Therefore, there is
a need for a leader to have flexibility in leadership style to develop the most
appropriate overall style for the team, adjusting it to meet the needs of
individual team members.
Great team leadership
is about creating the confidence in your team members to follow you by
anticipating their needs and ensuring that all that can be done to enable each
member of the team is done – so they can deliver.
An effective team leader will understand this requirement for
flexibility, evaluating their performance, examining not only their leadership
style but the appropriateness of that style. They must have the confidence to
continually ask themselves and the team, “Is there anything I can do to improve
my leadership of this team?”
Sounds complicated? Not really. Adopt the inverted hierarchy and see
yourself at the bottom of the pyramid supporting the team members and their
performance and not the other way around.
Traditional versus inverted hierarchy
With such a disposition, the management of coaching, performance, goals,
communications, up- skilling, planning and evaluation becomes the natural task
of the leader. This in turn will lead to a natural adoption of the appropriate
style of leadership for the team and its individual team members, driving
overall performance.
that balance for the team overall and meeting the individual needs of members
is a key task of team leadership. Remember it is not the team leader’s job to
do all the team tasks, rather it is to enable and support the team members to
you leading your team with the appropriate style? If your team has any characteristics
of the left-hand column you may need to change your leadership style.
Teams without
appropriate leadership                       Teams with
appropriate leadership
Lack or have misplaced confidence
Display confidence
Constantly seek direction
Are self-managing
Avoid decision making
Have a clear focus
Are fearful of mistakes
Have an appropriate sense of ownership
Have tenuous loyalty at best
Have loyalty to the team leader
Avoid extra effort
Go the extra mile when required
Keep quiet about bad news
Enjoy high levels of trust and openness
Find it difficult to be motivated
Tend to be more motivated
Have a sense of “flight or fight” and the accompanying stress levels
Experience high morale – will want to belong to the team
Feel frustrated
Feel valued as individuals and as a team
Are constantly threatened by attrition
Have high retention
Tend to have the few carry the many
Have an equitable division of labour
Allow poor performers to ‘get away with it’ leading to a sense of
Do not carry poor performers
Are less effective and struggle to deliver success
Are more effective and more successful
Simon Mac Rory
is a team development specialist. He works with senior leaders to help them
discover that edge to become truly high performing. He founded The ODD Company www.theoddcompany.ie
in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to
the international markets. Simon operates from London with a Dublin-based
support office. He received his doctoral degree for his work on the application
of generic frameworks in organization development and is a visiting research
fellow at NBS. His new book is “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative
of teams” http://wakeupandsmellthecoffeebookproject.com/.