Idea from Managing Teams – The Obstacle of Poor Team Leadership

Yesterday I wrote about four ideas that I curated from a book I had previously reviewed titled Managing Teams. It is one of the books from the Harvard Pocket Mentor series. You can read my review of the book here. In this post I am sharing with you one of the four ideas which is, the obstacle of poor team leadership.

The Obstacle of Poor Team Leadership

One of the most common reasons why teams may not function effectively is poor or ineffective leadership on the part of the team leader. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a team leader to admit that their leadership is ineffective. In fact it takes a leader with a strong sense of self-awareness and self-honesty to admit they may not be leading their team effectively. For a leader to recognise that they are not leading their team as well as they should, the leader first needs to recognise the signs of ineffective leadership. In that sense here are some questions the team leader must be able to answer:

  • Is participation in my team low in areas such as contributing views and ideas during team meetings and decision-making sessions?
  • Can team members explain the purpose and goals of the team clearly and why they are important to the organisation?
  • Am I as the team leader taking on tasks that should be done by team members?
  • Is conflict persistent within the team?
  • Is it difficult to get the team to make decisions?
  • Do my team members feel I am expressing favouritism towards certain team members over others?

As a team leader if you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, it may be a sign of ineffective leadership. You need to promptly deal with the issue. There are a number of reasons why one or more of these ‘ineffective signs’  may be happening within the team. For instance the team leader may be newly promoted and is still be struggling with leading a team since they lack the experience. Another reason may be that the team leader has not empowered the team members sufficiently to play their roles effectively within the team. Team members may need more guidance and development from the team leader. 

To lead effectively, the team leader will need to balance being directive with non-directive. Directive means being very explicit about what you need the team to do. It’s almost like giving them instructions about what they need to do, when they need to do it and how to do it. Non-directive is more about giving the team little or no guidance because you trust there ability to do something. In this case you tell them what to do, when to do it, but not how. Here are some tips to balance directive and non-directive leadership and consequently deal with the issue of ineffective leadership.

  • Clarify the team’s objectives, which is the what they need to achieve, but allow them to decide how they will do it. But be mindful about team members who will need more directive guidance or when a team task will need directive guidance from you.
  • Encourage team members to rotate leadership among themselves for various tasks so that they can share responsibilities and learn from each other.
  • Hold team members accountable for the completion and quality of their work. From the onset clearly define completion and quality standards.
  • Display commitment to the team’s goals and be actively involved so that you can be a role model to the team.
  • Invest in personal and team development. Give everyone the development support they need to do their jobs effectively.

In the next post I will write a group session that you can use to teach a group the lessons in this idea.

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