Does Team Take on Leader’s Personality?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 11, 2009

Have you ever noticed how the team takes on the personality of the team leader?  If the team lead is stressed, the team is stressed.  If the leader is easy-going, the team tends to be easy-going.  Politically correct?  The team is politically correct.  Rigid?  The team will tend to be rigid, etc.

Think about a team you are currently involved with.  How would you describe the team?  Now describe the team leader.  Do you see any difference?  Probably not — unless the team has mature team skills to transcend the effects of one person or the team was inherited from a different team leader.

This mirroring phenomenon starts with the very first interactions with the team leader.  For example, if the team leader demonstrates in both words and actions that his primary focus is on the task, then the team will also focus on the task.  If the team leader deeply cares about the people on the team, the team will be more relationship-oriented.  Or if the leader is obsessed about process, the team will obsess about process as well.  A well balanced team leader focuses evenly on task, process, and relationships so that team members can easily “follow” by actively participating.

One of my clients asked me how to “get around” a marginally effective team leader.  Sorry to say, unless you have a mature team who can share the roles and responsibilities for team leadership, you simply cannot “get around” the leader.  Most teams are used to and need some kind of leadership to provide focus and guidance, ensure active participation, and build sustainable agreements.  If your team leader is not effective, look in the mirror.  Chances are you are not as effective as you could be either.  When you point your finger at the team leader, point the finger right back at yourself.  This is no longer a “team leader” problem, but a “team” problem and should be brought to the attention of the team, discussed, and new agreements made (ground rules) to encourage the team and leader to be more effective.

Question:  Are you an effective example for your team leader?

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