August 10, 2010

Teams and Leadership Essay Example

Free example essay on Teams and Leadership:
This essay will discuss my experiences of teams and leadership. It will discuss my experience as a team member at work or outside work. It will also talk about my team membership experience within the unit teams and leadership and my experience as a leader. It will then go on to discuss the different stages that contribute to establishment of effective teams, roles of team members, evaluate my preferred role within a team, analyse the key functions of an effective team leader and finally assess the four main leadership styles and the context in which it may be most successful. I will commence this essay by defining teams and leadership and the different types of teams. I will then progress to my personal experiences.

A team can be defined as a group of people working together to achieve a certain goal and objectives. They usually have a defined task or tasks, which were already set, and everyone in the team has a specific or defined role to play. For example, a football team, every player has a role to play on the field in order to win. They are said to be dependent on each other’s efforts. An effective team is one that achieves its aim in the most efficient way and is then ready to take on more challenging tasks if so required. Members of an effective team are likely to be united in a common purpose, trust each other, be committed, be open with each other, accept consensus decisions, and support one another and work through conflict. There are probably no clear and finite stages of development. Here are some phases of team development. People sometimes distinguish between Hierarchical tams and Expect teams.

In a Hierarchical team there is leader, who is responsible for the teams overall act and assign the tasks to the other team members. There is a clear chain of authority, based on level of responsibility. (See diagram below)
Hierarchical team structure

This structure is usually used in companies. For example the Director will be on the top followed by the managers and then followed by the workers and the co-workers.

In an Expect team, the members are chosen for their particular skill and there is a team co-ordinator rather than a team leader. (See diagram below)
Expect team structure

This type of structure is mostly used with in sports teams, whereby you have everyone with the same responsibility but different skills to help achieve the task (which is winning the match).

According to Tuckman there four stages team development and these are as follows:-
Forming is when a team is just made or created. No one knows what to expect of anyone. Sometimes they may not know each other. The leader is not known to them yet and they do not know what behavior will or will not be appropriate. They are also unsure of what their objectives are. In this case, everyone awaits the rules and the methods to be employed.

Storming is when conflict arises and the capability of the leader is challenged. They may be doubt about whether there are sufficient resources to meet the demands of the tasks ahead. People react emotionally against its demands.

Norming is when the group begins to attune. They start to sort out all their conflicts and people start to co-operate on the tasks, plans are made and work standards are laid down. Communication views and feelings develop.

Performing is when the team is fully functional. The group structures itself or accepts a structure, which fits most appropriately with its common tasks. Constructive work on the task surges ahead; progress is experienced as more of the group’s energy is applied to being effective in the area of their common task.

For example, I was in a team of six people and we were given three tasks to perform. Our group performed very well and there no arguments or disagreements what so ever. According to the stages of team development, our group only went through the three of the four stages, which were, forming, norming, and performing. We started of by finding out what the tasks were and the objectives. Then we all decided that Dale was going to do all the writing, this was the forming stage for us. We also established the group culture on how we would do the tasks and the tea breaks that we needed. Our group did not go through the storming stage whereby there were any disagreements, competition and conflicts in the personal relations. The norming stage for us was basically sharing our views on the tasks and speaking and listening to each other. Finally the performing stage was we all felt we belonged to the group and completed the tasks set.

The types of behaviour in which people engage are unlimited. But the range of useful behaviours, which make an effective contribution to team performance, is limited. These behaviours could be grouped into a set numbers of related clusters to which the term ‘team role’ is applied. “The term ‘team role’ refers to a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others at work in certain distinctive ways”. (R.Meredith Belbin, P.24). According to Belbin’s book, there are nine teaming roles and the following are roles and description of team members.

Plant / Innovators in a team are creative, imaginative, and serious minded. They tend to solve difficult problems. They are known, as the Genius, has assertive self-confidence with uninhibited self-statement. They have a strong capacity for advancing new ideas/strategies, which can transform teams thinking. They tend to ignore details, too occupied to communicate effectively and can be a difficult and uncomfortable colleague.

Resource investigators are extroverts, enthusiastic, communicative and curious. They are capable of exploring new opportunities. They have an ability to respond to challenges. Due to their cheerful and positive character, it helps the team maintain good relationship. They are not very creative but stimulate good ideas in others. They are usually overoptimistic and lose interest, once initial enthusiasm has passed.

Coordinators / chairman are mature, confident, calm and controlled. They have a capacity for treating and welcoming all potential contributors on their merits and without prejudice. They have a strong sense of objectives and can also be seen as manipulative and delegates’ personal work. They are no more than ordinary in terms of intellect or creative ability.
Shapers are challenging, dynamic, outgoing and thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles. Usually likes action, quick results, willing followers and leads from the front. They are less effective in formal structured teams and needs to exercise self-discipline, adopt more coordinating role as opposed to leading.

Monitor evaluators are sober, strategic and discerning. They see all options and judges accurately. They usually have high I.Q. They have a strong critical thinking ability, analyse ideas and evaluate feasibility. They tend to be intellectually competitive; can cause conflict, not made easier by fact that he/she is usually right, they can also be seen as least highly motivated team members.

Team workers are socially oriented, cooperative, mild perceptive and diplomatic. Have the ability to respond to people and to situations, and to promote team spirit. Team workers can prevent disruption and conflict. They are loyal to the team. They can step in to minimize the friction innovators can cause unknowingly and shapers uncaringly. They can be easily influenced. There are likely to be missed if not there.

Implementers are disciplined, predictable, conservative and efficient. They have an organising ability, turn ideas into practical actions, and are hardworking and self-disciplined. Have good deal of trust, belief in people, sees their talent as resources rather than a threat to him/her. Lack of flexibility and slow to respond to new possibilities. Completers / finishers. They are painstaking, conscientious, anxious and orderly. They search out errors and omissions made by the team. They have to make sure everything is perfect. They have a capacity to follow through. Usually nag colleagues, communicates a sense of urgency. A disadvantage is that, they are not always easy to live with because they could lower morale.

Specialists are single-minded, self-starting and dedicated people. Specialists provide knowledge and skills in rare supply to the team. But contributes on only a narrow front. Dwells on technicalities and overlooks other things.
I took a self perception inventory and found out that I am more of a completer/finisher, someone that is “anxious, compulsive, introverted (shy) and tense”. The self inventory also states that I am someone that gets concerned, and nags colleagues. This best describes my character when it comes to me playing my part in a team. It is true that I am more of the completer; I like to finish off the work and nag the rest of the team members on playing their part. The inventory also says that without me that team would fall behind schedule, forget about the less urgent matters. I do agree with this, because there was a time when my team was set some tasks as I began to worry that we would not finish and ended up carry out one of the task myself.

Leadership is the act of leading. Leadership is the process in which an individual gains that trust and commitment of others and without reliance on formal positions or authority moves the group to accomplishment of one or more tasks. (Walter F Ulmer, Jr). Leadership is also known as the ability to get people to do what they don’t like to do and like it. (Harry S Truman). At times, groups might elect leaders but their role was essentially picking up the functions which members failed to provide. Groups such as trade unions or sports club choose their leaders who are ultimately responsible for the group. When a task is given to the group, higher authority appoints the leader, to tackle it. If given a difficult, a leader who exercises the art of leadership properly will generate sense of responsibility in everyone in the team. But he alone is accountable for the task. An example is at work, in a call centre; I work as a Customer Service Representative and I have to make sure I answer every call that comes through to me. I have a team leader who makes sure that I do my job properly, which is to be polite and make sure there is good quality conversation between myself and the customer. If anything wrong was to happen like how many calls I was taking or using the wrong protocols then my leader would not be questioned but I would

The primary responsibility as a leader as everyone knows is to ensure that a group achieves its common task. It has to be a common task, one that everyone in the group can share because they see that it has value for the organisation and affects them directly or indirectly. In order to be successful as a team leader in any given task, it will be necessary to pick out some functions that should be fulfilled while working in teams. The first thing that should come to mind is defining the task. Most of the time, the task is usually given to the group leader who will then pass it on to the others and define the objectives or targets to them. For example during my business studies lecture in secondary school, we were given a task to do in my group and the task was only explained to me. I had to go to the other group members to explain what was required of us. Being a leader in that case I had to be careful about the information I will be passing on to the other team members because if I give the wrong information to the team, the wrong work will be done. Defining the task basically entails telling the group the objective you have been given. What needs to be done, why and breaking down an aim into objectives for other group members. Re-define the purpose towards the end of the task to create more objectives. A leader should make sure they understand the task before explaining to other team members and not using the wrong language.

Planning is another good function of an effective team leader. Planning is also known as arranging beforehand. This is a process of searching for the best way a task should be carried out. It will be useful to memorize Rudyard Kipling’s checklist while planning which includes what, why, when, how, where, and who. These questions are usually asked in order to be clear of exactly what needs to be done. Contingency planning is one aspect of planning which experienced leaders tend to pay more attention to than others. A leader cannot foresee every eventuality. It will be wise for a leader to build a certain amount of flexibility into his/her plan so that he/she will not be caught out by unforeseen happenings.

Briefing also known as instructing is a function of a leader. It comments on the two previous functions. After a briefing is done, questions arise such as does everyone know what their jobs are and has each member of the group clearly defined targets as agreed between him/her and the leader. The main purpose of a briefing meeting is to allocate tasks to groups and individuals, to distribute resources and to set or check standards of performances. There are five briefing skills, which are usually used for a group for effective action. Preparing is the ability to think ahead and plan your communication and anything else that needs to be said. Clarifying is the ability to make clear or understandable. Simplifying is making complicated matters simple. Vivifying is to make a subject come alive. Natural is the ability to be you and cope with nerves in front of an audience.

Controlling involves both checking against standards and directing the course of work in progress. The success at directing, regulating, restraining or encouraging individual and team efforts on the task and in meetings is the criteria for testing a leader’s effectiveness as controller. A leader should try to maintain a balance between controlling too tightly and giving too much freedom to the team.

Evaluating is determining the value of what has been alone. This is an important function, which assesses consequences, evaluating teams’ performance, appraising and training individuals and judging people. As a leader it is important to develop good judgment about people. Avoid having favorites. The test of your ability in this respect lies in the performance of the people you have appointed. The function of evaluating means that the leader will give both the group and the individual feedback when the task is achieved.

The ability to move and excite people to action is called motivation. A leader has to be able to get the group and its individual members moving and in the right direction. The leadership should make sure that the physiological and security needs of the individual are met. If motivations and good job satisfaction are to be good, each individual must receive adequate recognition for his achievements and feel that he/she as an individual is developing, that he/she is advancing in experience and ability.

Organising is the function of arranging or forming into coherent unity or functional whole. It can mean systematic planning as well. Organizing means the structuring that has to be done if people are to work as a unit with each element performing its proper part. A leader should become very good at managing time, for it is the most precious resource.

A leader cannot help setting an example but the question is whether it will be a good or a bad one. When a leader is setting a good example people will tend not to be too aware of it, but they will certainly notice and comment upon a bad example. “I cannot hear what you are saying, for what you are, is thundering in my hears”, as the African proverb puts it. A leader needs to be very careful with what he/she does because people tend to notice what is being done more than what is being said. Many leaders of creative groups perform their functions as supporters, team builders etc because it is in their nature, though it must be added that to be effective it is certainly easier if one’s natural style is consonant with the culture of the organization as a whole.

In Philip Sadler’s book on Leadership, he went on to explain the four styles of leadership, which are autocrative, persuasive, consultative and democractive while John Whatmore explained three leadership styles in his book Releasing Creativity. He mentioned the Autocratic, democratic and manipulative leaders. His description of the democratic and autocratic leadership styles are the same but the manipulative leaders are highly skilled at setting up situations in ways that will enable members of the group whether consciously or unconsciously to produce appropriate performances. I chose to assess the four styles by Philip Sadler. The four main styles of leadership, which any leader could fall into, are autocratic, democratic, persuasive and consultative leadership.

The autocratic leadership is when the leader takes decisions and imposes them on the group and expect them to do as he ask with no questions. There are occasions and situations in which autocratic leaders produce outstanding creative performances from their groups. Autocrats will be most successful on task-oriented projects, which have agreed criteria for success, where they play roles of organizer and controller. For example, in an emergency where an immediate decision is demanded, an autocratic style is likely to be most appropriate and would normally be considered justified by the group.

The democratic leader encourages members of his/her group to share the decision taking process and sees him/herself as a coordinator of group effort, rather than as the decision taker. The leader will allow the decision to emerge out of the process of group discussion instead of imposing it on the group as its boss. In this case the leader shares not only the work but also the leadership. I personally think this is the best style of leadership because this enables one to speak freely and you’re happy to be within the team because the leader brings himself down to everyone’s level. I think this brings about a better working environment. This style is appropriate in instance where the nature of the responsibility associated with the decision is such that group members are willing to share it with their leader or the leader is willing to accept responsibility for decisions, which he/she has not made personally.

In the persuasive style, the leader also takes decision for the group without discussion or consultation but believes that people will be better motivated if they are persuaded that the decisions are good ones. He or she usually does a lot of explaining to overcome any possible resistance to hat he or she wants to do. The leader puts a lot of energy into creating enthusiasm for the goals he/she has set for the group. This style tend to fit situations in which the group leader, and he/she alone possesses all the information on which the decision must be based and which at the same time calls for a very high level of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of group members if the task is to be carried through successfully.

The significant feature of consultative leadership is that the leader confers with the group members before taking decisions. In this case, the leader considers their advice and their feelings when framing decisions. He may not always accept his sub-ordinates advice but they are likely to feel that they can influence the leader. This style is to be most appropriate when there is time in which to reach a considered decision and when the information on which the decisions need to be base is distributed among the members of the group. The fact that different styles are appropriate to different situations would simply be that the skilled leader varies his/her style according to the nature of the situation facing the group.

This essay has discussed the stages that contribute to establishment of effective teams, roles of team members and my preferred role within a team. It has also discussed the functions of an effective team leader and the four main styles of leadership and the context in which they may be most successful. This essay gives some examples of my personal experiences at work and in class where I worked within a team and being lead by a leader.


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