Team leader

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A team leader is someone who provides guidance, instruction, direction and leadership to a group of other individuals (the team) for the purpose of achieving a key result or group of aligned results. The team lead reports to a project manager (overseeing several teams). The team leader monitors the quantitative and qualitative result that is to be achieved. The leader often works within the team, as a member, carrying out the same roles but with the additional 'leader' responsibilities - as opposed to higher level management who often have a separate job role altogether.[citation needed] In order for a team to function successfully, the team leader must also motivate the team to "use their knowledge and skills to achieve the shared goals." When a team leader motivates a team, group members can function in a successful and goal oriented manner.[1]

Scouller (2011) defined the purpose of a leader (including a team leader) as follows: "The purpose of a leader is to make sure there is leadership … to ensure that all four dimensions of leadership are [being addressed].” The four dimensions being: (1) a shared, motivating team purpose or vision or goal (2) action, progress and results (3) collective unity or team spirit (4) attention to individuals.[2]

The team membership may not directly report or answer to the team leader, (who is very often a senior member of the organization but may or may not be a manager) but would be expected to provide support to the team leader and other team members in achieving the team's goals.

A good team leader listens constructively to the membership and to the customer(s) of the results that the team is charged with delivering.

Aligned with listening skills, team leaders are responsible for developing intervention techniques to improve overall team production. Shuffler (2011) claims that specific teams have interventions distinctly particular to their own team. Also, team building is most effective for solving specific team breakdowns, whereas team training is most effective for providing the knowledge and skills needed for teamwork.[3]

The responsibilities of a team leader vary greatly between organizations, but usually includes some responsibility for team building and ensuring teamwork. The term is used to emphasize the cooperative nature of a team, in contrast to a typical command structure, where the head of a team would be its "commander".

Sports leaders can be anyone from the head coach of a team to the last person off the bench. Some common qualities of all sports leaders, however, are that they are visionaries and see success for their team and that they are ultimate motivators who constantly promote enthusiasm for the betterment of the team.

Leaders vs. Managers[edit]

While the distinction between leader and manager may be confusing, the difference between the two is that a manager focuses more on organization and keeping the team on task while a team leader relates better to an artist and tends to have a more creative minded approach to problems. Team leaders can also be described as entrepreneurial and forward thinking.[4]

Personality Differences[edit]

Managers, especially those in the business field, tend to be more stable and focused on solving problems as they come. Under a manager's watch, a team should function as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This form of leadership stresses a mundane and practical approach to the work environment that instills discipline throughout the team or organization. In this way managers can be trained to lead a team to great heights within a certain set of limits. The creativity and critical thinking required are not as strenuous as required by a true leader or entrepreneur. While managers need to be tolerant and able to create goodwill with the team and perhaps clients, they do not need to be necessarily hard working, intelligent, or analytical. Instead managers are trained for a specific purpose. True entrepreneurs do not have any boundaries and use a vision for what they see as being a huge success to guide their actions.[4]

Goal Orientation[edit]

Managers tend to set goals that prioritize necessities and the culture of the organization over all else. Leaders on the other hand are progressive and want to set goals based on their personal wants and desires. One way of looking at it would be to think of a business as simply wanting to perform and innovate only to the point that they think their customers would be interested in buying a product or service. An innovative spirit in a leader is what propels him to create something unique and never before seen. He will use this single minded passion to inspire and push others around him to greater heights. Instead of being reactive to the wants of others, leaders will be active in pursuing their goals. The resulting desires and objectives push the organization in the direction of the leaders vision.[4]

Managers also tend to view work as something that warrants either coercion by a reward and punishment system. Managers lean toward limiting and narrowing the number of solutions available to make sure there is consistency and efficiency. Leaders move in the opposite direction and try to incorporate fresh solutions to new problems. They excite those around them with exciting images about what could be. This comes down to a fundamental character trait in which managers tend to be risk averse while leaders are more risk seeking. Where managers will work methodically to make sure everyday tasks go smoothly, leaders will have a difficult staying focused when given the same tasks.[4]


Leaders and managers tend to both build relationships with those that are working under them. With that being said it is important to note the type of relationship that is being built. Managers tend maintain a distance from those that work under them by showing little or no empathy for them. Leaders on the other hand are very empathetic to their employees and those that they lead. The result is that followers, or employees, are motivated to work and pursue a common goal held by the leader and the rest of the group. In inter group conflicts and relationships, the managers focus sole focus is usually turning a win-lose situation into a win-win situation or maintaining the win-win situation. This leads to a desensitization of the managers views towards his employees feelings. For managers relationships aren't about creating a great work environment as it is about maintaining a balance of power.[4]


There are two basic personality types: once-borns and twice-borns. Once borns generally have stable childhoods and upbringings that lead them to be more conservative in their views. They strive for harmony in their environment and use their own sense of self as their guide. Twice-borns are the exact opposite. People who are twice-borns generally have an upbringing that is defined by a struggle to create some sort of order in their lives. As a result, these individuals tend to strive for separating themselves from their peers and society. Their self-perception is not based on where they work, what organizations they are a part of, or even what they have already done in the past. Instead they are driven by the desire to create change.[5]

Managers show the traits of once-borns while leaders clearly exhibit the traits of twice-borns. Leaders see themselves as separate from the rest and try to play this sense of self by becoming entrepreneurs or great political leaders or even by chasing any endeavor that they feel will differentiate them. Managers want to maintain their harmonic environment and commit their lives to making sure nothing causes disturbances.[4]

Qualities of Successful Team Leaders[edit]

While the qualities of successful team leaders are limitless, there are some qualities that every team leader must have to be successful in his pursuits. Some leaders are born with a lot of the traits necessary, but most of the time people pick them up on their journey to becoming a great team leader.

Leading By Example[edit]

It is important to make sure your team understands that you are the most committed person in the business or organization. There are several ways of showing this but the most influential is leading by example. Good leaders portray what they want out of their organization by living out those ideals If a leader wants honesty and commitment from his employees then he should be sure to uphold all of his promises and do whatever it takes to make sure the team is successful. If the leader is seen slacking then it becomes much easier for an employee to follow suit and even worse, become bored with the job[6]


Being able to clearly communicate what you want is a key skill any person in a position of leadership. While there are many different techniques leaders can employ to properly communicate, it is more important to build a positivity with communication. Communication should not simply be about getting a job done, but about building relationships and making the workplace more fun. This type of communication will ultimately lead to more open dialogue between everyone in the place of work and a higher level of comfort.[6]


Creating the right attitude in the team is of the utmost importance. Generally a good leader will want to maintain a positive attitude no matter what. This does not mean that he has to be happy all the time, but if there is a problem then the leader has to maintain an air confidence that will inspire the team to follow. Creating a positive atmosphere will keep the team focused and happy. This in turn increases overall productivity and efficiency in the long run.[6]


Being able to think outside the box is a great skill for any leader to have. Some problems do not have such clear cut solutions and in these situations leaders need to be able to use their past experience, the advice of others, and any other resources available to create a unique solution. Being able to do this is crucial to making sure an organization survives the numerous crises that any organization will face.[6]

Ability to Inspire[edit]

The ability to inspire is usually what sets ost leaders apart from everyone else. Leaders should have a vision that they can clearly communicate with others and use to get them on their team. Leaders should be able to take their idea or vision and use it to bring everyone excited toward working on a common goal. This singular inspiration is what serves as the compass for many organizations, especially those just starting out.[6]


The ability to stay confident no matter what is happening around a leader allows for him to stay calm in most situations. If the leader is calm and confident that everything is going to work out then that allows him to be more efficient and productive. Followers of a leader will pick up on this confidence and they in turn will become confident in their abilities to get the desired job done.[6]

Concertive Style of Management[edit]

While traditional leadership has maintained that one person generally leads several groups, each with their own leadership hierarchy, the concertive style of leadership gives the power to the group. While there will generally be a management group making the big decisions for the direction of the company or organization, the workers themselves get to develop their own set of values and rules to govern themselves. This includes task division, problem solving, day-to-day functions, group prioritization, and internal conflict resolution. Instead of a manager or leader being responsible for producing the results the management expects, the burden now fall on each individual member of the group. By establishing a set of values, rules, and norms these groups can go on to manage themselves, usually with great success.[7]


In a holacracy people have multiple roles while increasing efficiency, confidence, and communication at the workplace. At Zappos, the leadership decided to adopt this type of organizational model because they had "gone from being a fast speedboat to a cruise ship". Leadership had hoped that the change would bring about new energy into the workplace by empowering everyday employees. While many cite more work to do and the large learning curve as obstacles to implementing the system, most workers are much happier than when they had a managerial system of organizational structure.[8]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Thompson, Leigh (2011). Making the team. Chapter 2 Performance and Productivity: Team Performance Criteria and Threats to Productivity."
  2. ^ Scouller, J. (2011). The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Knowhow and Skill. Cirencester: Management Books 2000., ISBN 9781852526818
  3. ^ "Shuffler, Maria (2011). There's a Science for That: Team Development Interventions in Organizations. Sage Publications 2011.",
  4. ^ a b c d e f Zaleznik, Abraham (1977). "Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?" (PDF). Harvard Business Review. 
  5. ^ James, William (1902). Varieties of Religious Experience. Longman. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-11-26. 
  7. ^ Barker, James (1997). Disciplining a Teammate: Control in Self Managing Teams. New York City: The Guilford Press. pp. 97–107. 
  8. ^ Gelles, David (2015-07-17). "At Zappos, Pushing Shoes and a Vision". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-26.