by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

The team leader’s role

What are the critical knowledge and skills for a team leader?

  • Team diagnostic knowledge and skills – observing and understanding team dynamics and team development
  • Team leadership and intervention – knowing how and when to respond to the team, given the team’s stage of development
  • Interpersonal and team skills – establishing effective team processes in the areas of alignment, decision making, communication, problem solving, conflict management, performance measures, values and norms

Seven characteristics of good team leaders

An effective team leader will

  • Create a positive climate with a shared vision
  • Help develop a set of principles
  • Liaise between the team and upper management
  • Encourage team member growth
  • Be fair
  • Be supportive
  • Give direction where needed.

There are several ways in which the team leader can contribute to creating a positive climate within the team. One of the most powerful forces is to put forward, in cooperation with team members, an exciting vision/purpose of what the team is to achieve. Once the vision is developed, it needs to be kept in front of the team members as a reminder of what they wish to accomplish.

The team leader can provide the leadership for helping the team develop an understood and accepted set of principles that will contribute to their success. Included in this set of principles should be norms for operating within the group, criteria for evaluating success, standards for determining quality of performance, and an identified reward system to recognise the team’s successes.

The team leader should be the liaison between the team and upper management. The team leader needs to know and work with upper management to obtain a full commitment from them in support of the team’s programme. However, when this happens, team members must realise that they have a major responsibility to make the maximum use of the resources and support provided.

The team leader can encourage team member growth, and should be willing to take some risk by having members whose resources are relevant to the immediate task provide the leadership.

The team leader should be fair, supportive, and recognised by team members as one who can make final judgments, work with upper management, and give direction to the team as needed.

Team leaders and members who make a conscious, sustained effort to make these seven characteristics a part of their mindset will find that the effective accomplishment of desired results will be much higher than would otherwise be the case.