So what exactly does a good team leader do? Strengthen the Leadership Roles Below to Build Effective Leadership in Yourself and Your Team.
After studying some of the best leaders in different industries for the past 20 years, we found a few roles that each played very well. If you understand these leadership roles and focus on developing these skills, your peers will see you as a leader as well. At the end of this post, we have included a survey that you can complete to find out how you rank as a leader!
The 10 Top Leadership Roles Common in Great Leaders.
- Create and Communicate an Inspiring Vision of the Future.
- Identify Team Goals that Are Mile Markers to that Vision.
- Establish Clear Expectations with Your Team.
- Help Team Members Create Personal Goals Inline with Team Goals.
- Coach Your Team Members to Meet.
- Delegate Responsibilities to Your Team.
- Build a Team Culture.
- Provide Appropriate Resources for Your Team.
- Praise Every Success.
- Discipline Team Members Who Are Counterproductive to the Team.
10 Leadership Roles that Most Great Leaders Score Very High In.
Let’s cover each leadership role in more detail to explain the significance.
Create and Communicate an Inspiring Vision of the Future.
There is a big difference between a leader and a manager. A good manager is skilled and getting team members to move efficiently down an established path. However, a leader is someone who creates an entirely new path.
One of my heroes is Milton S. Hershey of the chocolate bar fame. Hershey had to drop out of school in the fourth grade to work on the family farm. After failing in business in New York, he returned home in significant debt. It took him years to get back on his feet. However, within 10 years, he built the million-dollar Lancaster Caramel from scratch in Lancaster, PA.
In the late 1800s, he had an idea to create a version of chocolate that everyone could afford — milk chocolate. Hershey sold his successful caramel company to fund the project. He built the new factory in an open field surrounded by milk farmers. Then, he began to build a town for his employees. The town, Hershey, PA, had comfortable family homes, public transportation, and recreation facilities.
After failing in New York, the odds that he would succeed in the much smaller town were pretty slim. Then, after building a gigantic company, he sold it to risk everything manufacturing a product that no one had ever heard of. Finally, he built a town for his employees. He was able to see what no one else could. Then create that vision.
Identify Team Goals that Are Mile Markers to that Vision.
If you as the leader just create lofty goals, the goal will always seem out of reach. So instead, create a series of footsteps or mile markers along the way. For instance, increasing revenue by a million dollars this year is pretty hard. However, bringing in an extra $19,231 each week seems easier. The moment your team exceeds that number the first time, that makes next week’s goal even easier.
I hate to run. I get bored easily. However, I got a wild hair once to run (jog very slowly) a 5-K race. Keep in mind that it was the first time since college that I had run at all. There was no training or preparation involved. I just showed up on a Saturday morning in my gym shorts and tank top. After about 10 minutes, I was ready to give up. Then, around the next corner, I saw a water station. As I approach the station, I realized that I was about one-third of the way to the end. So, I decided to keep going.
Although it was much harder to get to the second station, I knew I was two-thirds of the way now. In my mind, I had already run that far twice this morning. What’s one more time. I have to admit, though, by the time I was halfway through the last mile, I just kept telling myself, “Let’s just run to the next light pole.” At every pole, I was that much closer to the finish.
Your team needs mile-markers too. So a major leadership role is to break the big goal into bite-sized pieces.
Establish Clear Expectations with Your Team.
I will give you my personal Goldilocks examples of this principle.
My first real job out of college was working for an entrepreneur in a small town in West Texas. When I interviewed for the job, he gave me a verbal job description and asked if I could do it. Eager for a job, I told him yes. I assumed that further explanation would come later. Instead, I got my first job assignment. After completing the job, I expected some coaching or instruction, but I just got another assignment. Months later, my boss called me into his office to chastise me about the quality of my work. I started looking for another job that day.
A couple of months later, my new boss went to the other extreme. He laid out the exact number of activities that I was to do each day and the time period. This company had a team of assistants that set appointments for me. It was easy work, and I got paid well. However, I didn’t really feel valued. My success was dependent upon my other team members. (To be blunt, a lot of my coworkers didn’t have my values or work ethic, so I felt like a lot of my time was wasted.)
My third boss took his leadership roles seriously, though. He gave me a territory to manage. Then, he calculated the revenue that the territory pulled in the previous year. Finally, he just said, “When you get me a 10% increase over last year, come back. I’ll give you another territory.” It was brilliant. If I ever had a challenge getting the increase, I could come to him. He would then coach me and send me back into the field.
Help Team Members Create Personal Goals Inline with Team Goals.
Years ago, I had a boss who wanted desperately to make President’s Club for his franchise. I was one of 12 account managers. To qualify, he had to generate over $2,000,000 in revenue by the end of the year. My boss called each of us into his office one at a time and asked us how much of the total we could generate. I knew that 1/12th of the total was about $167 grand. I also knew I was one of his best account managers. So, I suggested to my boss that my number be $200,000.
He paused and got real quiet. The only thing he said was, “I was hoping you’d be my first quarter of a million-dollar account manager.” In my head, I started trying to think of any possible way to hit that number. I must have paused too long, though. Because the next thing I heard was, “No problem. 200 it is. I’ll see if Bob wants to shoot for the 250.”
I wasn’t about to let Bob beat me. So, I hit $250,000 that year. If you are good at inspiring your team members, then an important leadership role is to help them set personal goals.
Coach Your Team Members to Meet With Each Other Away from the Team Leader.
Let’s face it. We all think we are good communicators and leaders. However, our team members will always tell each other more than they tell us. One of the things I have started encouraging my team to do is to reach out to another team member each week. Everyone on the team has a different person to meet with. So each will meet with two different team members each week. The meetings don’t necessarily have to be work-related. The point is to build camaraderie and teamwork.
I had a part-time job working for a hospital when I was in high school. The department signed up for intermural coed volleyball. Since I was 18 years old and heading to college to play football in a couple of months, my boss recruited me on the team. I learned more about the character of my coworkers in those four weeks than in the previous year. Plus, I had a lot of fun. (Just as an FYI, football and volleyball require totally different athleticism. We really sucked.)
Delegate Responsibilities to Your Team.
One of the major roles of a leader is to know the strengths and capabilities of his or her team members. Then, the leader must delegate responsibilities to each team member. Notice the wording. I’m not saying to delegate tasks. That isn’t leadership. Instead, give your team responsibility and the authority to make things happen.
There is a subtle but important difference between these two philosophies. In some restaurants, while you are eating, a random person will come to your table. “How was your meal?” the random person will ask. You will likely respond with an awkward, “Good.” This is a manager completing a task. He or she will be told to “make contact with the diners.” Really, though, the manager doesn’t care about the diners. The manager is just going through the motions of completing the task.
In other restaurants, though, the manager might say something like, “Hey folks, I hate to interrupt your meal, but I’m Laura, the store manager. How is Joe (your waiter) treating you? (Pause.) Oh, you ordered the Marsala. That is my favorite. How is it?”
In the first, the manager is completing a task. In the second, the manager has taken on the responsibility of creating a fantastic customer experience.
One of the Major Leadership Roles is to Build a Team Culture.
There are two parts to building a team culture within your organization. First, you have to create an environment that is fun, productive, and fulfilling. Then second, you have to be on the lookout for cancers that eat away at the team culture.
By the way, if you are exhibiting effective team leadership by strengthing the other nine skills, you will automatically be doing this one. However, at times, you may want to do more than what your team expects. For instance, an impromptu pizza party or Friday happy hour can do wonders for team culture. The major part of this skill though is how we treat our team members. Respect and edify your team, and they will respect and edify each other.
The tougher part though is to look for the cancers within your organization. Years ago, I hired a brilliant instructor. He was a top producer. While he was on the team, though, I began to notice that some of the team members began to get somewhat disgruntled. It was odd because we have always had such a fun team culture. Eventually, we found out that he had started a competitive business and was funneling clients to his new company. I had to terminate him.
After he was gone, I realized that he had been subtly sowing seeds of negative through the organization. My guess was that he was trying to get coworkers to become upset so they would quit and work for him later. It took years to recover. So don’t make the same mistake I did.
Effective Team Leadership Requires Providing Appropriate Resources for Your Team.
Nothing can be more frustrating for a team member than to be given responsibility without the appropriate resources. Years ago, I taught a leadership course for a department of the US government. In one of the sessions, we covered group problem-solving techniques. This session is always a real favorite for class members because they typically brainstorm a lot of unique solutions to tough problems.
In this session, though, the results were very different. The group came up with a dozen or so potential solutions to the challenge we had identified. Then we got to the part where the team was to choose the best solution and put together an implementation plan. As they went through the list, only a very small percentage of the solutions were actually viable. The others needed… literally… an act of Congress or a policy change initiated by the President.
From a teaching perspective, this was very sad. These leaders had been given the responsibility for results but not the resources to get the results. It would be like giving your teenager the responsibility for making sure the law was clean and tidy. Then limiting the teen to only a single a tank lawnmower gas each month. The first couple of weeks of the month, the lawn might look great. However, after the resources are gone, the teen will have a tough time getting a good result.
One of the Very Important Leadership Roles is to Praise Every Success.
As a recap, effective team leadership includes being visionary, setting goals, and delegating responsibility. If you have these three things in place, then it is much easier to praise the successes. When any member of your team moves the team toward the overall vision, praise them. Or, when a team member accomplishes a goal or exceeds your expectations, take time to praise them. Take note of times that you have delegated responsibility and your team member acted responsibly.
Every time we praise a success, we build confidence in that team member. At the same time, we are showing other team members that we value these results. We are showing them that if they move the team toward the vision, accomplish goals, and take on responsibility, they will be rewarded as well.
Picture building your team like constructing a building. The earlier leadership roles are like the blueprint. They let you know what success looks like. If you spend time establishing the earlier leadership roles, the later ones are easier to identify. As the structure is built, you can look at the blueprint to see if the structure is in line with what we set out to build. So as tasks are accomplished and results are achieved, check the blueprint. If the results are in line with the blueprint, praise the results.
Every time you do this, you increase the enthusiasm and energy of the team members who accomplished the goals.
Effective Team Leadership Sometimes Requires Us to Discipline Team Members.
No matter how good we are as a leader, ultimately, we will be required to discipline our team members. In fact, this is a very important leadership role. Keep in mind, though, that discipline doesn’t require calling someone out on the carpet. You will get much better results if you coach the team member to fix the challenge himself or herself. Let the person save face.
For example, let’s say that you have done an excellent job establishing your expectations and setting goals. One of your team members misses the goal in a single week. A bad leader would call the person in and ask why he or she missed the goal. However, a good leader will create a positive coaching session out of the situation.
“Just out of curiosity, how did you do on your weekly goal last week?” Let the team member confess that he or she missed the goal. “It happens. Do you think it is just an anomaly, or do you think you need to make a behavior change?”
If you coach in a similar way, you aren’t micromanaging. Instead, you’re getting the team member to focus regularly on what is most important.
However, if the team member misses the goal and nothing is said, it becomes okay to miss the goal. You would be inadvertently reinforcing negative behavior.
So what happens if the person continually misses his or her goal. Should you fire the person? Not necessarily. The goals that are set may be a little off. Try adjusting the goals first.
Take the Leadership Roles Survey to See If You Exhibit Effective Team Leadership.