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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about leadership recently. I sometimes come across teams, especially “management” teams, who are not really teams at all. They just happen to be on the same line of an org chart with a common boss.

Unsurprisingly, they do not make any effort to effectively communicate, let alone collaborate, and the results are not pretty. Their own teams in turn do not communicate or collaborate effectively, leading to a fractured, dysfunctional organisation.

It results in an indefinable, but unhappy atmosphere, with people feeling disconnected, focusing on tiny tactical wins, and being demotivated by a lack of significant progress. It is often accompanied by a focus on demonstrating busyness over effectiveness.

Where do you start to turn around this unhappy ship? At the top.

A common definition of a team is “a group of people with a common purpose”. It is the leader’s absolute responsibility to define and explain that common purpose to their management team. It is possibly the most important aspect of leadership.

Achieving collective goals directly related to that common purpose should be the measure of each team member’s success, and the leader must tell people that this is one of the critical factors upon which they will be assessed.

Without it, people will pursue personal agendas, hoard information, focus on creating and protecting their empires and will prioritise all of those things over delivering value through their own teams.

If you have been promoted to any level where you have a team of your own, you must accept that you must be a leader. Any leader has a position of great responsibility. There is no abdication of that responsibility.

As soon as you have a team, your primary focus must be to become and remain the best leader you can possibly be to your team.

I don’t care if your job title says “Manager” or “Head of” or “CXX” – if you have a team, you are now a leader. Act like one.

  • You primary job is to get your team to be successful
  • Create a team, and help them to become an excellent team
  • Establish a clear and common purpose
  • Measure individuals by how they collaborate with their teammates, and measure the team’s progress and success
  • If they in turn have their own teams, you must measure their ability to lead as part of their fitness for the role, and measure how they encourage their teams to collaborate with other teams
  • You must explain to your people how you will measure their performance, and collaboration skills have to be an integral part of that assessment

If you can’t do this, you are not the right person in the role. A very strong statement, I know, but true. You will just feel stressed and unhappy, and life is too short for that. Finally, you owe it to those people who need an effective leader in order to fulfill their own potential. If you can’t be that effective leader, step aside. Leadership is not for everyone.

Postscript: I work with lots of leaders in helping them to develop the skills and attributes I’ve outlined above. This short post just starts to explore what is a very deep and fascinating subject.  If you want to arrange some time with me, in the strictest confidence, to discuss your personal situation, please contact me.

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