What’s the difference between “leadership” and “team leadership?”

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 11, 2017

This week, I spoke with emerging leaders at an association leadership development seminar. The topic was on “team leadership” and was one competency among four to earn their “Fellow” designation. One of the participants asked me, “What’s the difference between “leadership” and “team leadership?”

Interesting question…and I told her I would think about it and get back to her. (Introverts need to think before we speak!)

So here’s how I responded:

Leadership is when you need to get people to do what you want them to do, go where you want them to go and be whom you want them to be. It’s about changing the behaviors and actions of others.

Whereas team leadership is when you need to get a group of people to do what is best for the organization, take the organization to the next level and be collaborative along the way.

Yes, it’s a subtle nuance, but important. Leadership is about motivating people to act in concert with the leader’s desires. Team leadership takes it one more step – those individuals must work collaboratively to achieve the desired results. It’s a more complex form of leadership and requires a more collaborative style. You shift from being “the boss” to being their “coach,” From being directive to facilitative.

I would say that it’s not so much a “difference” as a higher level skill set. Just because you are a good leader, you can’t assume that you will be a good team leader! You’ll need more awareness, skills and knowledge to be successful as a team leader.


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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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