Leadership and Team Development

Updated: Feb 5

1. Introduction

Welcome to Leadership & Team Development!

Probably the most important part of becoming any sort of leader in the modern workplace is to be the person that others choose to follow. Even where compulsion is possible, it tends not to work very well.

If people decide that they don’t want to do things your way, then they can find any number of ingenious ways to undermine your wishes. Even if the obstructive behavior justifies dismissal, firing someone always has negative consequences for morale, focus, and productivity. In fact, you can end up spending so much time and effort defending your decision to your boss, co-workers, or an employment tribunal that you don’t have any time left to do your job properly.


If you want to take a leadership role, then the most important questions you can ask are:

  • Which leadership style is the most appropriate?

  • Which leadership style is most prevalent in your organization?

  • Why should my team follow my lead?

  • How can I alter my competencies and behaviors to become this type of leader?

The answers to these questions depend on your role, your team, and the task at hand. Whilst there are some skills that you will need to develop in order to be an effective leader, your role, your team, and the task will all affect which of these skills you use.

Before getting down to answering the question of why people would choose to follow your lead, you will need to understand the different leadership styles and types of teams that are found in the workplace.

2. Leadership vs Management

Although sometimes used synonymously, leadership and management can be quite different. Leaders may be managers, but not all managers are leaders. The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

– Peter F. Drucker

A successful business owner needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board to follow them towards their vision of success. Leadership is about getting people to understand and believe in your vision and to work with you to achieve your goals while managing is more about administering and making sure the day-to-day things are happening as they should.



Key characteristics of a strong leader are:

  • Honesty & Integrity: get your people to believe you and buy into the journey you are taking them on

  • Vision: know where you are, where you want to go and enroll your team in charting a path for the future

  • Inspiration: making sure your team understands their role in the bigger picture

  • Ability to Challenge: do things differently and have the courage to think outside the box

  • Communication Skills: keep your team informed of the journey and where you are heading

Common traits of a strong manager are:

  • Being Able to Execute a Vision: take a strategic vision and break it down into a road map to be followed

  • Ability to Direct: day-to-day work efforts, review resources needed and anticipate needs along the way

  • Process Management: establish work rules, processes, standards, and operating procedures

  • People Focused: look after your people, their needs, listen to them and involve them

In order for you to engage your staff in providing the best service to your guests, clients or partners, you must enroll them in your vision and align their perceptions and behaviors. You need to get them excited about where you are taking them while making sure they know what’s in it for them. With smaller organizations, the challenge lies in making sure you are both leading your team as well as managing your day to day operation. Those who are able to do both will create a competitive advantage.

Remember: leaders may be managers, but not all managers are leaders!

3. Leadership Theories

What is it that makes some people excel in leadership roles? Leadership theories seek to explain how certain people become leaders. Such theories often focus on the characteristics of leaders, but some attempt to identify the behaviors that people can adopt to improve their own leadership abilities.

A number of different leadership theories have been introduced to explain exactly how and why certain people become great leaders, but most can be classified into eight major types:

1. “Great Man” Theories Have you ever heard someone described as “born to lead?” According to this point of view, great leaders are simply born with the necessary internal characteristics such as charisma, confidence, intelligence, and social skills that make them natural-born leaders. Great man theories assume that the capacity for leadership is inherent – that great leaders are born, not made. These theories often portray great leaders as heroic, mythic and destined to rise to leadership when needed. The term “Great Man” was used because, at the time, leadership was thought of primarily as a male quality, especially in terms of military leadership.

2. Trait Theories Similar in some ways to Great Man theories, trait theories assume that people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. Trait theories often identify particular personality or behavioral characteristics shared by leaders. For example, traits like extraversion, self-confidence, and courage are all traits that could potentially be linked to great leaders. If particular traits are key features of leadership, then how do we explain people who possess those qualities but are not leaders? This question is one of the difficulties in using trait theories to explain leadership. There are plenty of people who possess the personality traits associated with leadership, yet many of these people never seek out positions of leadership.

3. Contingency Theories Contingency theories of leadership focus on particular variables related to the environment that might determine which particular style of leadership is best suited for the situation. According to this theory, no leadership style is best in all situations. Success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the followers and aspects of the situation.

4. Situational Theories Situational theories propose that leaders choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different styles of leadership may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making. For example, in a situation where the leader is the most knowledgeable and experienced member of a group, an authoritarian style might be most appropriate. In other instances where group members are skilled experts, a democratic style would be more effective.

5. Behavioral Theories Behavioral theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Consider it the flip-side of the Great Man theories. Rooted in behaviorism, this leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders, not on mental qualities or internal states. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.

6. Participative Theories Participative leadership theories suggest that the ideal leadership style is one that takes the input of others into account. These leaders encourage participation and contributions from group members and help group members feel more relevant and committed to the decision-making process. In participative theories, however, the leader retains the right to allow the input of others.

7. Management Theories Management theories, also known as transactional theories, focus on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. These theories base leadership on a system of rewards and punishments. Managerial theories are often used in business; when employees are successful, they are rewarded; when they fail, they are reprimanded or punished.

8. Relationship Theories Relationship theories, also known as transformational theories, focus upon the connections formed between leaders and followers. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people by helping group members see the importance and higher good of the task. These leaders are focused on the performance of group members, but also want each person to fulfill his or her potential. Leaders with this style often have high ethical and moral standards.

There are many different ways of thinking about leadership, ranging from focusing on the personality traits of great leadership to emphasizing aspects of the situation that help determine how people lead. Like most things, leadership is a highly multi-faceted subject and it is a mixture of many factors that help determine why some people become great leaders.

4. Leadership Styles

There is not a one-size-fits-all leadership style for all firms. However, having a thorough understanding of various leadership styles enables executives to not only adopt the correct characteristics for themselves but also choose better managers throughout the organization.

Autocratic Leadership

This style of leadership is both directive and controlling. The leader will make all decisions without consulting employees and will also dictate employee roles. Micromanaging is a form of autocratic leadership in which upper management controls even the smallest tasks undertaken by subordinates. The autocratic style of leadership limits employee freedom of expression and participation in the decision-making process. It may result in alienating employees from leadership and will not serve to create trust between managers and subordinates. Further, creative minds cannot flourish under autocratic leadership.

Autocratic leadership may best be used when companies are managing less experienced employees. Western companies operating in less developed countries often use autocratic leadership. It allows the parent corporation more control over its overseas investment. In countries where the government controls the economy, Western corporations often use autocratic leadership because the employees are used to making decisions to satisfy the goals of the government, not the parent corporation.

Managers should not use the autocratic leadership style in operations where employees expect to voice their opinions. It also should not be used if employees begin expecting managers to make all the decisions for them, or if employees become fearful or resentful.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

This free-rein form of leadership, if it is to be successful, requires extensive communication by management with employees. It is the style of leadership that makes employees responsible for most of the decisions that are made, and in which they are minimally supervised. Employees are responsible for motivating and managing themselves on a daily basis under this leadership style. Laissez-faire leadership may best be used when employees are educated, knowledgeable, and self-motivated. Employees must have the drive and ambition to achieve goals on their own for this style to be most effective. Laissez-faire leadership is not a good idea in situations where employees feel insecure about the manager’s lack of availability or the manager is using the employees to cover for his or her inability to carry out his or her own work. This type of situation can create resentment and result in an unhealthy work environment.

Democratic Leadership

This style of management is centered on employee participation and involves decision making by consensus and consultation. The leader will involve employees in the decision-making process and they will be encouraged to give input and delegate assignments. Democratic leadership often leads to empowerment of employees because it gives them a sense of responsibility for the decisions made by management. This can also be a very effective form of management when employees offer a different perspective than the manager, due to their daily involvement with work. A successful leader will know when to be a teacher and when to be a student.

Democratic leadership may best be used when working with highly skilled and experienced employees. It is most useful for implementing organizational changes, for resolving group problems, and when the leader is uncertain about which direction to take and therefore requires input from knowledgeable employees.

One of the downsides of democratic leadership is that it may lead to endless meetings and therefore create frustration among employees if used for every decision made by a company. Democratic leadership is not a good idea in situations when the business cannot afford to make mistakes – for instance, when a company is facing a crisis situation such as bankruptcy.

As with many categories that describe business concepts, an organization and its leadership may apply any or all of these leadership styles. For instance, the managing partners of an architectural firm may utilize autocratic leadership style with the lower levels in its clerical and administrative functions but employ a democratic or laissez-faire leadership style with its professional staff of architect-associates and partners.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is based on the ability of the leader to motivate and influence followers through their intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. These leaders offer a role model that inspires, interests, and challenges their followers to take greater ownership for their work. A transformational leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of each follower and assigns tasks that enhance each individual’s performance.

Leaders who have a clear vision and are able to articulate it effectively to others often characterize this style of leadership. They look beyond themselves in order to work for the greater good of everyone. This type of leader will bring others into the decision-making process and will allow those around them opportunity to learn and grow as individuals.

They seek out different perspectives when trying to solve a problem and are able to instill pride into those who work under them. Transformational leaders spend time coaching their employees and learning from them as well.

Transactional Leadership

This leadership style is characterized by centralized control over employees. The transactional leader will control outcomes and strive for behavioral compliance. Employees under a transactional leader are motivated by the transactional leader’s praise, raise, and promise (rewards). They may also be corrected by the leader’s negative feedback, threats, or disciplinary action (sanctions).

This type of leadership makes certain assumptions about your team. Firstly, that they are only motivated by reward or punishment; they have no self-motivation. Secondly, that they know from the outset that they must obey your instructions without question and expect to be closely monitored and controlled.

The most effective leadership style is using a combination of styles. Leaders should know when it is best to be autocratic and when to be democratic. They can also be transformational and transactional at the same time; these are not mutually exclusive styles and in fact can complement one another extremely well.

5. Leadership Trends

In today’s competitive environment, leaders are continually searching for new ideas and approaches to improving their understanding of leadership. They need to stay on top of the current trends influencing their company, their industry, their employees and attitudes toward the working world in general.

These are five of the most important recent leadership trends:

1. Coaching A new trend of effective leadership, coaching, has become extremely popular throughout different organizations. When coaching, management provides employees with ideas, feedback, and consultation, but decisions will ultimately be left in the hands of the employees. Coaching prepares employees for the challenges they will face. The lower an employee’s skill and experience level, the more coaching the worker will require. The interactions that an employee has with the manager are the best opportunities they have for enhancing their respective skills. Coaching enables the employees to excel at their tasks. Instilling confidence in employees is extremely important. If management conveys the belief that employees will exceed expectations, it helps them do so.

2. Employee Empowerment As organizations and companies become increasingly borderless, employee empowerment becomes ever more important. This trend in leadership has allowed employees to participate in the decision-making processes. Employee empowerment is also a method for building employee self-esteem and can also improve customer satisfaction. It also ties them more closely to the company goals and will serve to increase their pride in their work and loyalty to the organization.

3. Global Leadership As corporations become increasingly international in scope, there is a growing demand for global leaders. Although many of the qualities that make a successful domestic leader will make a successful global leader, the differences lie in the abilities of the leader to take on a global perspective. Global leaders are often entrepreneurial; they will have the ambition to take their ideas and strategies across borders. They will also have to develop cultural understanding; global leaders must be sensitive to the cultures of those working under them, no matter where they are based. Global leaders must also be adaptable; this is part of accepting the cultural norms of different countries in which they are operating. They must know when to adapt the operational structure of the organization or adjust their leadership styles in order to relate to those around them. However, as adaptable as they must be, the global leader should not adapt his or her ethics or values to suit local tastes. Global leaders must also serve as role models, fighting corruption, not giving in to it.

4. Equitable Treatment An important trend in leadership is the equitable treatment of employees. This does not mean that each employee will be treated the same; it means that every employee will be given the amount of individual attention they require, and it will involve leadership knowing his or her employees. A good leader will get to know employees well enough to give them what they need in order to best perform. For some employees that may mean more structure; for others, it may mean more freedom. Some employees may need to be monitored more carefully, while others may work better independently. Leaders must know how to bring out the best in employees and how to build solid relationships with them; the most effective way of doing this is by getting to know them individually.

5. Feedback Employees thrive on feedback, and by providing feedback and communicating effectively, managers can give employees the tools they need to improve their performance. Providing feedback will not dampen employee morale in most cases, but will allow opportunities for employees to learn from their mistakes and move on to perform their tasks better. Positive reinforcement should be used to encourage employees’ positive behavior, but when criticism is necessary, make sure it is constructive. Managers can do this best by telling employees exactly what was observed and how they interpreted it; this also will allow employees to better understand what the manager saw in their performance and to explain if there has been a misunderstanding.

6. Tuckman’s Group Stages

One of the most influential studies about team building is Bruce Tuckman’s four-stage model called ‘Tuckman’s Stages for a Group’ from 1965. It states that the ideal group decision-making process should occur in four stages. These enable a group to tackle problems, find solutions and deliver results.

Stage 1: Forming


This first stage involves the bringing together of a group of individuals to form a team. At this stage, members usually have positive expectations about the venture, although they may harbor some anxiety about other members, such as who they are and what they are like. At this point, it is about building relationships within the group and clarifying the team’s mission. Initially, individuals behave independently of each other, but as they gather information and impressions the team members begin to agree on goals and tackle particular tasks. The length of this first stage will depend on how clearly the task is defined and on how much experience the individuals have of working in a team. Groups with simple tasks will move through orientation quickly, but groups with complex goals and tasks may spend much longer in this stage. Teams made up of people who are used to being autonomous will take longer to build the necessary relationships for a successful team than those used to working in a group. Many individuals may be reluctant to contribute at this stage and their support of the leader is given cautiously. As a manager you need to be very ‘hands-on’ at this stage, giving clear directions and structure to make sure that your team builds strong relationships. You can facilitate this by making sure your communications dispel any misunderstandings that could arise about roles and responsibilities. With decisions being made in the majority of cases by the nominated leader you also need to ensure that no team member is committing themselves to do too much, or too little, of the planned work. By paying attention from the outset to building good relationships, as well as focusing on a clearly defined task, your team will perform better than teams whose managers rush through or skip over the relationship-building stage.


Stage 2: Storming



During this second stage, where team members feel more able to express and question opinions, you will see more evidence of internal conflict. Your role as a manager is to contain and direct this energy into a productive channel. You need to be aware that some level of internal conflict will cause a simultaneous dip in team morale.

Your management role will have to become more supportive, guiding the team in their decision-making and offering explanations of how these decisions came about. You need to define what you and the organization expect of the team in terms of professional behavior.

This more instructional approach will enable you, as team manager, to prevent any conflict from getting out of control and poisoning relationships between team members.

You will be able to recognize when your team moves into the ‘storming’ stage because you will observe your team beginning to address the differences between their initial perceptions and the reality of the situation that they have been formed to address. This will cover issues such as what problems they are really supposed to solve, how they will function independently and together, and what leadership model they will accept.

As your team members begin to negotiate the work assignments and express their views on the best way to achieve the task outcome disagreements will arise. Through your active listening skills, you will mediate and help decisions to be made through compromise as the most efficient way to attain the necessary outcomes.

While your team members confront each other’s ideas, test differing perspectives, discuss what the group needs to do, and how best to accomplish it, your role becomes one of a facilitator building trust within sub-groups of the team.

Team storming, whilst it may be contentious and unpleasant, will be resolved relatively quickly with your guidance and support. You must view this as a necessary step for your team to become a cohesive whole, not as an enormous irritation to be dismissed. You may also choose to break the team into smaller subsets of cohesive individuals within your team so that morale and productivity are raised.

Stage 3: Norming



Once your team has reached the third stage of its development the members focus on resolving differences so that the mission and goals can be clearly defined. Your role within the team transfers from that of a leader to that of a team member.

Team members are learning more about each other and how they will work together and are developing tools such as a problem-solving process, a code of conduct, a set of team values, and measurement indicators. The team has now established core processes, and as manager, you need to ensure the team avoids spending unnecessary time on issues related to the smaller processes.

During this period of negotiation and discussion, your role becomes one of observer and facilitator in order to assist your team in establishing the ground rules of behavior as they learn to work together. Their attitudes are characterized by decreasing animosities toward other members; feelings of cohesion, mutual respect, harmony, and trust; and a feeling of pleasure in accomplishing tasks.

Your team is truly developing a sense of team pride, and you will see evidence of increased productivity as skills develop. The team arrives at decisions that are more in line with their purpose rather than from a position of compromise.

You can begin to transform your role as coach to one of a mentor and delegator, offering your team greater opportunities to raise their levels of expertise.


Stage 4: Performing



Now your team has reached the final stage of its development and can bring real benefits to you and the organization. Your team members are now competent, autonomous, and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision.

Your team has been accomplishing work at every stage, but it is at this ‘performing’ stage that work is accomplished most effectively. Morale is high and the general atmosphere is positive. Team members’ attitudes are characterized by positive feelings and eagerness to be part of the team.

Members are confident about the outcome, enjoy open communication, exhibit high energy, and disagreement is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team. Leadership within the team is often shared and tasks are delegated within the team, which makes the overall decision-making process operate more easily than at earlier stages.

As a manager, once your team is operating at this level then your role becomes one of overseer and delegator. You are no longer involved in day-to-day activities and the team’s relationships with each other emulate the high degree of trust and loyalty you show in your relationship with the team.

Another key task you will perform at this stage is one of monitoring your team’s relationships and performance to ensure that the group dynamics remain positive and productive. This is because changes in the dynamics of the group can result in high-performing teams reverting to earlier team-building stages.

7. Hackman’s Five-Factors-Model

In 2002, whilst working at Harvard University, J. Richard Hackman developed a research-based model for designing and managing workgroups. His research centered around the question of why only some groups were successful. He identified the factors that can increase the chances of success for teams.

1: Being a Real Team



What does Hackman mean by ‘being a real team’? The elements he said were required to ensure your team is ‘a real team’ are:

  • the members have a shared task,

  • the team boundaries clearly state who is inside or outside of the group, and

  • the group membership is stable.

As a manager, you will have direct control over the first two elements of what constitutes ‘a real team’, but it is the stability of the group members that is often the hardest aspect to control. If you are based in a project-type environment then it is probable that team stability will last only as long as the project.

Instability within the team composition can also arise from the nature of the work. For example, managing within a call center environment is often plagued by a high rate of staff turnover due to the nature of the job and the fact that it often attracts transient individuals.

As a manager in this type of environment, you will be able to minimize the inevitable disruption of staff turnover by developing an induction program that quickly integrates new recruits into the team.

2: Compelling Direction



The second factor of this model is that of providing your team with a compelling direction. This means that you provide your team with clear goals, which are both challenging and consequential.

As a manager, whatever type of team you are responsible for, you have direct control over the goals you set your team. You can also ensure that you set SMART goals for your staff that motivate and reward them. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.



These goals need to clearly state how the team contributes to the organization so that the team is aware of their own contribution to the overall mission.

3: Enabling Structure



The structure that your team exists in is the third factor that Hackman cites as influential in making your team a success. Some of these aspects you will have control over, while others are going to be dictated by the type of organization you are in and your role within it.

Where possible, offering your team variety in the tasks they must complete improves the team’s success. Examples might include small changes in task assignment if you are managing a call center team, or keeping the size of your team at a manageable level so that they are not too large and become unwieldy. Sometimes you may want to make small sub-groups within a large team so that the qualities of successful teams can be nurtured.

Within your team’s structure, you will also want to ensure that some of your key players have good social skills. This makes certain that persuasion and well-presented arguments rather than conflict form the basis for decision making within the team. These social skills will also ensure that behavior is guided by strong norms.

4: Supportive Context



The fourth quality required to ensure successful teams is that of support. A supportive context is essential for companies and organizations, as they are made up of small groups which when combined form a larger group.

This support framework is made up of three elements: reward, development, and information.

  • The reward must be linked to the performance of the group or team. This system must be based upon rewarding the group’s performance and cooperation.

  • The second element of the support must be the development of individual members’ skills through an educational system. For many organizations, this educational system is formed around the Appraisal System, and as a manager, it is vital that you develop your skills in this area.

  • The third supportive element is connected to the provision of information and guaranteeing easy access to this data and materials. Your ability as a manager to ensure your team has access to the information and materials they need to develop their own skills is crucial.

You can take advantage of the advances in communications technology (computers, notebooks, smartphones, etc.) and the internet. You will be able to guide your team to the best resources and information they require to develop their skills.


5: Expert Coaching



The final aspect of the Five Factor Model is that of expert coaching and mentoring. Through the annual appraisal system and your day-to-day management of the team, you are able to identify which members of your team require help with a task, or help those individuals develop their interpersonal skills.

Once this need has been identified, you coach the person in how they can best meet this challenge and develop the skills they lack. You must be conscious not to be too overbearing in your manner, as this can seriously undermine the effectiveness of the team. The latter is a criticism that Hackman draws attention to in his research and it will significantly reduce the success of any team.

Most teams you encounter in the working world are likely to exhibit a mix of Tuckman’s Four Stages and Hackman’s Five Factor Model in their day-to-day operations.

As a manager, it is useful to be able to identify the stage at which your group is operating and which of the five factors are present in your organization. By understanding the group dynamics of your team in this way you are better able to adapt your leadership style and behaviors to suit your current team.

You will encounter teams that are an almost permanent fixture, but in which individual members may come and go. Your role in this instance is to ensure that any new members are integrated into the pre-existing team as quickly as possible. This enables the team to continue to operate most effectively.

Other teams are more temporary in nature, often set up for a specific project. Frequently this type of team will be made up of individuals who are familiar with and have a great deal of experience of working in teams. If you are managing this type of team you will facilitate the team to be a cohesive unit as they are likely to be very clear about each other’s responsibilities. This means that the forming and storming stages will be more quickly resolved as the whole team is focused on its objective.

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