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The question of leadership in high performing teams

May, 2019

While selecting the right members can be challenging, finding a fit lead for a high performing team remains a huge concern. Its widely acknowledged that leadership can make or break a team. Hence, to guarantee sustainable performance, the roles and characteristics of the team leader need to be clearly defined.


What it takes to build a team

Getting the latest technology and applying it is easy, but building a coherent high performing team remains one of the hardest things for a business to achieve.

What makes it so difficult is the overpowering human element. How can you build a team, where every member is equally driven, ambitious and enthusiastic about work? A team where everyone is looking forward to work cooperatively? Choosing members with the right skills is key, but making sure they have the right attitude is what makes a difference.

Needless to say, diversity is also very crucial. While cultural and ideological coherence needs to be taken into consideration, diversity is what gives a team an edge, boosts its creativity and varies its problem solving and decision-making capabilities.


Creating the team

Before we get into leadership, we need to discuss composition. Team size is extremely important here. Research has shown that teams that are larger than 10 tend to face problems such as: a) slow decision-making, b) lack of individual contribution to the decision-making process and hence lack of ownership, and c) the formation of sub-teams and divisive behavior. This ultimately decreases the team’s effectiveness and performance.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of team spirit. A group that is made up of individual “stars” is less likely to perform. These individuals may be high performers on their own, but unless they work as a team and bring an added value to the table, their talent and skills will not be transmitted to the rest of the members, which can undermine the overall performance of the team.


The role of the team leader

The team leader isn’t just the person who assigns tasks, follows up on them and reports to the manager. The role of the team leader is much more emotional and deep rooted. So, what are the functions and behaviors of the leaders of high performing teams?

  1. Inspire to drive: They emphasize the importance of every individual member, and pump up their energy and enthusiasm.
  2. Resolving conflicts quickly and directly: Providing full trust and support to team members not only ensures prompt conflict resolution, but also promotes cooperation rather than competition.
  3. Setting the right goals: When teams achieve extraordinary milestones that are difficult to accomplish, it increases their feelings of competence, capability, engagement, and satisfaction with work.
  4. Focused communication: Team leaders help members stay on track by providing them with constant updates and information that keep them in line with the overall vision and mission.
  5. Trust, trust, trust: Leaders gain the team’s trust through a) creating a strong bond/relationship with them, b) using all their knowledge, skills and expertise in problem solving, and c) being consistent and never giving empty promises.


Being part of a high performing team not only increases employees’ productivity, work ethics, and overall satisfaction with their workplace, it also helps them make wiser choices in life; because dealing with a stressful, slow and unpleasant work environment everyday can be draining and demotivating.

Employers here need to take action. Losing valuable talents and having teams that are constantly under-performing can put the entire business at risk. However, forming small, focused teams with the right leadership is what will take a business to the next level.

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