Being the Leader of Your Team
The first time I was inspired to become a great leader was when I first heard the story of a great leader. I was 16 years at that time and the story influenced my role in every of the activities I was involved and took part actively.
Let me share the story that made me a better leader with you: “At the age of seven, a young boy and his family were forced out of their home. The boy had to work to support his family. At the age of nine, his mother passed away. When he grew up, the young man was keen to go to law school, but had no education. At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. At 23, he ran for state legislature and lost. The same year, he went into business. It failed, leaving him with a debt that took him 17 years to repay. At 27, he had a nervous breakdown. Two years later, he tried for the post of speaker in his state legislature. He lost. At 31, he was defeated in his attempt to become an elector. By 35, he had been defeated twice while running for Congress. Finally, he did manage to secure a brief term in Congress, but at 39 he lost his re-election bid. At 41, his four-year-old son died. At 42, he was rejected as a prospective land officer. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. Two years later, he lost the vice presidential nomination. At 49, he ran for Senate and lost again. At 51, he was elected the President of the United States of America. The man in question: Abraham Lincoln.” – Author Unknown
Many of us are acquainted with this eloquent example of persistence and determination in achieving victory. We read it, stop for a moment and then sigh and say: “Wow! That’s the stuff real leaders are made off.” And in saying this, it’s all too easy for us to think about leaders like Lincoln almost as “mythological creatures”, separate from the rest of humanity and empowered by some mysterious quality that smoothes their path towards inevitable success. This is the view of leadership that many people have traditionally taken: those leaders are marked out for leadership from early on in their lives, and that if you’re not a leader, there’s little that you can do to become one. However, that’s not the way we see it now. The modern view is that through patience, persistence and hard work, you can be a highly effective leader.
This article will help you to start finding and developing these leadership qualities within yourself. It will help you assess your current leadership skills, and explore your motivation to lead –without a strong motivation to lead, you’ll struggle to improve your skills or become an effective leader. However, if you have to lead even if you lack an intrinsic motivation to do so, this article gives you some useful techniques you can use to build your motivation within a team. A team is made up of individuals with distinct opinions, values and talents. As the leader, you need to tune in and acknowledge each individual within the team. By recognizing each individual, you help the team collectively succeed. Never limit your interactions to a group setting or think of the team as just a group.
What makes the team so special is all the individuals within the group. When you approach your team both as individuals and as a collective group, you gain your greatest return. Each individual should make their own unique contribution. Your job as the leader is to inspire each person to do their best – first for themselves and then for the team. A team is like baking a cake. Each ingredient in the recipe adds its own value to the end result. Communicate One-On-One Regularly Are you managing people or activities? Sit back, look in the mirror, and ask yourself “Am I doing everything I can?” Look at each individual in that team. Find out their values and priorities. What motivates each person? What are their talents? Checking the temperature of each individual is an ongoing process. Leaders of winning teams are always working, observing, asset mapping and asking. Do one-on-one coaching (if you have the skill). Focus on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Spend 2 – 10 minutes with each team member daily. When they come to expect “their time”; trust will develop and moving beyond one’s comfort zone becomes easier. The coach’s job is to help them succeed. The best coaches ask vs. tell. Ask team members for their opinions and listen. For instance, find out… What is important to the individual? How do they feel about the team? How do they feel about the work? What is their view of success?
While your team is “Forming”, it is your job to direct them. You will be most effective by taking responsibility and providing needed structure around goals, roles and procedures:
- Clarify department goals that align with your divisional strategy/goals.
- Clarify roles and resolve any role conflicts and ambiguities.
- Establish group procedures that will support the work of the team.
- Focus the tasks and priorities of the team while also developing good working relationships.
Depending upon the skills and experience of your team, you will most likely make decisions on your own at this stage. To avoid some common traps:
- Be sure to teach and demonstrate skills.
- Do not be dominating or overbearing.
- Encourage your team and try to draw out questions.
Give people recognition for following directions, meeting defined standards and getting the work done. This may sound like a lot of work, and it can be. The fruits of your labor will not materialize overnight. It will take time and effort. However, it is time and effort well spent because it returns the team to a high functioning state as quickly as possible.
- Address the situation.
- Know what you want to do and how you want to do it.
- Be prepared for resistance.
- Provide the structure necessary to get your team on its feet.
A solid foundation for your team is crucial if you wish to see them become a high performing team in the future