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January 9, 2017

Are you the leader your team needs? Here’s a tool to create a superteam

There is one question that usually starts the discussion. What makes a good leader? The question is often thrown around in university lounges, team meetings, TED talks, and searched on Google by entrepreneurs. We’ve compiled a handy tool for you to better understand what type of leader your team needs and how to fulfil those needs.

However, the question itself is pretty vague. More specifically, the word ‘good’, what does ‘good’ mean? Is a good leader someone who abides by a strict working structure? Or perhaps distance themselves from their team, creating a more dynamic and democratic team?

Team working together in a cafe late at night

Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers to the question ‘what makes a good leader’. There are thousands of answers that are too difficult to summarise in a single blog post. Given that, we will provide you with some handy information for facing this difficult question. We’ll reflect on how to recognise what your team needs, and how to improve your teams productivity as a tuned leader.


Recognising your team’s needs.

The role of a leader is a fundamental part to a team relationship. One important attribute a leader possesses is recognising what your team needs, and as a result being flexible enough to attune to those needs. To recognise your team needs you can usually follow this group development model by Susan Wheelan. According to her, a group dynamic usually falls into one the following 4 stages.

Group stage 1 – dependancy and inclusion

  • Team members rely heavily on the leader
  • Team members often discuss topics and stories about non-work related things
  • The leader invests heavily in directing the team
  • Major concerns from team members about safety and group inclusion

Most new teams start here, and we’re all too familiar with this situation from our first week at work, trying to integrate with our new colleagues. At this stage, a leader must be extremely attentive to team needs, and particularly on individual concerns. It is important to establish familiarity with our new team and for every member to be included.

Group stage 2 – counterdependancy and fight

  • Team members disagree among themselves
  • Group goals and practices are challenged
  • Conflict is inevitable

The team’s task at group stage 2 is to develop an unified set of goals, values, and working practices. The responsibility falls to the leader to coordinate this conflict in a productive environment. It is important to understand that conflict is necessary to create an climate where team members are comfortable disagreeing with each other.

Group stage 3 – trust and structure

  • Team’s willingness to cooperate increases
  • Communication becomes more open and work orientated
  • More mature discussions around goals and organisation

At this stage the team has gotten past the conflicts and begins to strengthen bonds between members. This is a mostly positive experience, and focuses on further developing the team’s roles and working practice. The leader’s attention is not as intense as previous stages. Here, the leader maintains a healthy environment for team members to create mature discussions and improve.

Group stage 4 – work productivity

  • Intense team productivity
  • Resolved many of the issues in previous group stages
  • Most of the energy is focused on the task at hand

This is the level that teams aspire to, it is has a the best flow of productivity. Do you remember a team you felt like this with? When things just seem to ‘fit together’. Reaching this stage takes some time, and shaped by a lot of feedback, and many tears. In effect the leader doesn’t direct as much, but instead – motivates.

There is a fifth stage which is termination of the group after finishing a project or a result of a fallout, however we won’t go into further detail here as we’re focusing on leadership.

Take a moment to reflect, what group stage are you currently at with your team? Can you recall a team where you reached stage four?

Leadership involvement as group evolves

Some general reflections are the leader will be working much closer with directing, structuring and leading the team during the earlier stages of group development. Following through to a more ambient type of leader, promoting independence and a dynamic team.

We recommend practicing empathy with your team. In fact, this is one of my favourite areas to work with when promoting team agility.

Author | Max Less

Digital is my passion. I love coding and all things geeky, less is more.

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