Are You a Strong Team Leader? Four Traits That Really Matter

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 1, 2015

Whenever I facilitate a meeting, I am inevitably asked, “So how do we compare to other teams you work with?”

I typically dodge the answer because all teams are different – although they are largely a reflection of the team’s leadership. If the leader is constructive, then the team is too. If the leader is passive-aggressive, so goes the team.

shutterstock_277372325So what are the traits of a strong team leader? I have always had my suspicions, but I just ran across some research that highlights four core leadership behaviors that are most relevant on the front line.

Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol and Ramesh Srinivasan (McKinsey & Company) identified 20 distinct leadership traits and then surveyed 189,000 people in 81 globally diverse organizations and then segmented them by leadership performance.  What they found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed these four behaviors.  (As you read this, I suggest that you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on how well you perform these traits):

  1. Solving Problems Effectively. How well do you go about gathering information, analyzing and considering the information and assumptions in order to make effective decisions?  “This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues (such as M&A) as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).
  2. Operating with a Strong Results Orientation.  Great team leaders need to balance results, process and relationships.  However, they never lose sight of the end goal and provide a clear line of sight for each team member to see how they contribute to the goals.  “Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results.”  How easy do you make it for people to connect their work with the desired results?
  3. Seeking Different Perspectives.  Teams are terrific to work on important, complex, nuanced issues that don’t have an obvious answer.  The team craves multiple perspectives in order to be successful.  After all, if one person has the answer, then you certainly don’t need to convene a team!  How well do you seek different perspectives – leveraging all the knowledge in the room?  “Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.”
  4. Supporting Others.  When all team members know that their leaders support them, innovation and solidarity happens.  “Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel.  By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust, inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges.  They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.”

So how did you do?  You may even want to have your team take this same quiz – and then compare results.  It’s not so much about the number, but the conversation about how to improve each of these dimensions.


Kristin Arnold is a professional facilitator specializing in high stakes meeting facilitation. As president and founder of Quality Process Consultants, Inc. she is an interactive speaker, engaging trainer, and a high performing team consultant.


Recent articles:

Leading from the Heart

What Makes a Team Extraordinary?

Achievement Oriented Leadership


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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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