Leading work teams can be extremely challenging because you are suddenly put in a position where you are expected to lead a group of your peers. Even though you are responsible for the outcomes of the project, you have no formal authority over team members’ actions. How do you get everyone to respect your position without appearing bossy? How do you separate personal relationships from the work that needs to be done? And, most importantly, how do you inspire your team members to do their best work?
The key to leading successful work teams is to focus on the people, not the work. This might sound counterproductive at first, but it actually makes complete sense when you think about what leadership is: creating change by influencing others. As the team leader, you role is to move other people to action. You can do this most successfully by developing real relationships with your team members, being likable and trustworthy, and showing care for others.
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Relationships are a key component of effective leadership. People will work harder and hold themselves more accountable when they have a strong relationship with the team leader. Have you ever been on a work team where the leader didn’t even remember your name? I have – and it didn’t inspire me to want to do my best for that person. As team leader, it should be your goal to connect in a real way to each person on your team.
Be Likeable and Trustworthy
People want to be led by those they like and trust. This doesn’t mean you need to be everyone’s best friend – likeability isn’t about making other people happy or avoiding conflict. Instead, likability is the result of treating others with respect, being kind, and acting authentically. This also means owning mistakes and holding people accountable. Your team members must know they can depend on you.
Care About Others
The strongest team leaders genuinely care about their team members. They value them as people and recognize their potential. They lift them up when they need support and celebrate their successes. They are committed to helping their team members grow and develop – professionally and personally.
Once you gain the reputation as a team leader who develops real relationships, is likeable and trustworthy, and cares about others, you will have no problem leading your peers. In fact, you will inspire them to do their best work.
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
Do you have a story about serving as a team leader? Share it in the comments!