Working with Teams vs. Leading Teams

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 11, 2023

leading teams

This week, I had an interesting conversation with one of my clients about her people working with teams vs. leading teams.  This might appear to be a subtle nuance at first blush, but let’s dig a little further to discern the difference:

One of my favorite quotes is from General Eisenhower:

Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done.

I’ve written about this in an earlier blog, but in essence, a team leader provides inspiration and direction for the team.  Most of the time, they are also doing the real work of the team and need to get along with others.  Most importantly, the glue that holds that relationship together is trust and respect that the leader is heading in the right direction – determining what must be done.

When you have a team leader who is focused on working well with others, you end up in a leadership vacuum – with the team working on tasks that may or may not be the highest and best use of their time and the company’s resources.

Which is what was happening with my client.  The team leader was well-liked and some work was getting done, but team members were picking and choosing what they wanted (or could) do. Ergo, big leadership vacuum and my client felt like she was having to insert herself into the team’s work way too frequently to keep them focused.

Once I pointed out this nuance, the client knew what she needed to either 1) coach the team leader to set the strategic direction and create a plan for the team or 2) find a better seat on the proverbial bus if the client had already coached them or they lacked the necessary skills to set the strategic direction.

It’s important that your people work well with their teams, and if in a leadership role, that they also are able to get people to want to do that which must be done.


Related Articles:

Leading Virtual Teams: 7 Strategies for Team Success

The Role and Selection of the Team Leader

Team Leader Tips to Set Your Team Up For Success

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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