Past 5 Solutions Inc.

Effectively lead your teams

How Do We Select Great Leaders?

Let's take a moment and close our eyes. Think of a perfect leader. That person may be our manager, the captain of our favourite team, or a public personality we follow and admire. What comes to mind? Would we think they are committed to their goals and desire to win or be oblivious to outcomes? Would they have confidence in whatever they lead, or are they uncertain and wavering? Would they keep composure or fall apart under pressure? Would they be honest and trustworthy or deceptive and manipulative? The answers are often evident if we know what questions to ask.

We can ask the above questions ourselves if we think about it. Most of us want to develop the qualities above, such as commitment, confidence, composure, and character in ourselves. We have intuitive feelings and expectations of a person we want to become and an ideal leader model in our heads.

The overarching point here is that if we cannot lead ourselves, we cannot lead anyone else. This premise and the above 4Cs comprise Jeff Janssen's Team Captain Leadership Model. The model contains elements of the transformational leadership theory. The theory starts with leading by example.

So how do we get started leading by example? How can we become the ideal team captains?

To become great leaders, we must first become great followers. In other words, we must embrace a servant leadership role in our teams. Servant leadership means doing the day-to-day grunt work without complaining, listening to your team and helping them, and, most importantly, prioritizing team success over personal success.

Only after we have shown consistency and dedication to being servant leaders over time can we influence our teammates. We would have gained our peers' respect, and they would listen to us whether or not we had a title and official authority. At this point, our peers would also expect us to speak and ask for input. In their eyes, we are becoming de facto team leaders.

So how do we meet the expectations of our peers and embrace this leadership role? This transformation is where many individual contributors with leadership potential struggle and need help from a coach or deliberate personal development. A simple way to start is to be aware of two leadership styles associated with being a vocal leader: supportive and autocratic. Both can be effective when applied to appropriate situations.

A supportive leadership style is appropriate in most team situations and aims to develop people to reach their full potential. As supportive leaders, we promote autonomy, team building, and prioritizing what’s important. Most people respond well to a supportive leadership style and flourish in this environment. Thus, a supportive leadership style is appropriate in most situations.

A supportive leader focuses on building the teammates' proper habits to do their job well independently. They celebrate their colleague's successes, reinforce positive behaviours, and increase confidence in their abilities.

A supportive leader is a team builders, both setting team goals and explaining why those goals are essential. They would help the team establish social bonds during and outside work hours. They would help people step into their roles and understand why they are valuable to the team.

Finally, a supportive leader prioritizes well and helps colleagues focus on the most important things to the team's success.

However, all teams require accountability and maintaining accountability is where the autocratic style is appropriate. The autocratic style involves giving feedback and clear direction on what to do next. This style is suitable for tracking progress and diving into areas of improvement for the team. A leader could ask their teammates to update us on the progress, identify opportunities, and provide instructions on addressing those areas adequately. Following up on our team's goals and commitments is vital for showing that we care about those goals and ensuring that our team stays on track.

On teams wanting to win, there will be highly competitive individuals, and a clash of egos is often unavoidable. Competition could lead to team members putting their goals ahead of the team goals. Unhandled, the conflict will spill out and negatively affect the rest of the team. When there is a conflict between two team members, it becomes the leader's job to facilitate a positive outcome. Even if there is reluctance, the leader should bring both sides together and have them air it out. If there is a deadlock, the leader will identify the root causes and steps to resolution and insist on all parties following the steps.

The vital thing to remember with autocratic and supportive styles is that a leader must use them positively and with care for their teammates. Even if we are in a highly charged emotional situation with our colleagues, we must remain serene and composed. If the leader feels negative emotions, it is wise to step back and take some time. Then, after an emotional reset, they should approach the situation with care for their colleague, even if they are providing autocratic instructions. It often takes one emotional slip to lose the trust and influence a leader worked so hard to build.

We hope this gives aspiring leaders some insight into their role on the team. Whether we are managers or individual contributors, if we focus on developing our 4Cs of commitment, confidence, composure, and character and learn the appropriate application of the two leadership styles, we can effectively influence our peer development and positive team results. We will be the team captains we have always wanted to be.