The middle section of the Hill Model for Team Leadership lists a number of specific leadership actions that can be performed internally (“Task” and “Relational”) or externally (“Environmental”). These lists are not exhaustive but are compiled from research on team excellence and team performance discussed earlier in this chapter. For example, teams that have clear goals, standards, effective structure, and decision making will have higher task performance. Teams that can manage conflict, collaborate well together, and build commitment will have good relationships. Teams that are well connected to and protected from their environment will also be more productive.
It is up to the leader to assess what action, if any, is needed and then intervene with the specific leadership function to meet the demands of the situation. The leader needs the ability to perform these skills and to make a strategic choice as to the most appropriate function or skill for the intervention. For example, if the leader decided that team members were arguing, he or she might decide to initiate conflict management. To be an effective leader, one needs to respond with the action that is required of the situation. Thus, it is the job of the leader to analyze and mediate the situation to make the best decisions for the good of the team. A detailed knowledge of group dynamics and interpersonal processes is key to effective team leadership.
A team leader also needs to recognize and interpret what is getting in the way of the team’s goal accomplishment and then make a strategic choice and respond with the appropriate action (Gouran & Hirokawa, 1996). If a problem is diagnosed as a team performance problem, then the leader needs to determine the appropriate action to solve this task problem (e.g., goal focusing, standard setting, or training). If a problem is diagnosed as a team development problem, then the leader needs to determine the appropriate action to solve this relational problem (e.g., managing conflict or building commitment). If a problem is diagnosed as an environmental problem, then the leader needs to determine the appropriate action to solve this context problem (e.g., networking, advocating, or sharing information).
Internal Task Leadership Actions. The “Task” box in the Hill Model for Team Leadership lists the set of skills or actions that the leader might perform to improve task performance. After monitoring the team’s performance, the leader might choose to intervene in one of the following task areas:
· Goal focusing (clarifying, gaining agreement)
For example, if team members seem to be going off in different directions, the leader might intervene to clarify the team’s goals or work with members to obtain agreement on goals.
· Structuring for results (planning, visioning, organizing, clarifying roles, delegating)
For example, if the leader determines that the team is stuck in day-to-day affairs and not looking to or building for the future, then he or she might intervene by helping the team vision and plan for the future.
· Facilitating decision making (informing, controlling, coordinating, mediating, synthesizing, focusing on issues)
For example, if the leader determines that members are not adequately sharing information with each other, he or she might ask questions to seek out the information that is not being shared.
· Training team members in task skills (educating, developing)
For example, if the leader observes that the team members do not have the skills necessary to make well-reasoned decisions, the leader might provide a training seminar in decision making.
· Maintaining standards of excellence (assessing team and individual performance, confronting inadequate performance)
For example, if the leader observes that some team members are coming late to meetings or not attending meetings, the leader might have to take direct action and confront these members to address this inadequate performance.
Internal Relational Leadership Actions. The second set of internal leadership actions in Figure 14.1 reflects those that the leader needs to implement to improve team relationships. After monitoring the team’s performance, the leader might choose to intervene in one of the following interpersonal areas:
· Coaching team members in interpersonal skills
For example, if the team leader observes that team members do not seem to be listening to one another, then he or she might intervene by leading team members in a listening exercise.
· Collaborating (including, involving)
For example, if the leader observes that some team members are not taking others’ opinions into account, then the leader might intervene to encourage compromise.
· Managing conflict and power issues (fighting or avoiding confrontation, questioning ideas, avoiding groupthink)
For example, if the leader observes that the members are not questioning ideas and are just agreeing with each other in order to move quickly to a decision, then the leader might intervene by providing a discussion on the negative aspects of groupthink (Neck & Manz, 1994).
· Building commitment and esprit de corps (being optimistic, innovating, envisioning, socializing, rewarding, recognizing)
For example, if the team seems to have low morale, the leader could intervene to build commitment and unity by recognizing past team successes.
· Satisfying individual member needs (trusting, supporting, advocating)
For example, if a team member seems stressed due to disrespect from other members, the leader might provide support to the upset member and advocate to the team on his or her behalf.
· Modeling ethical and principled practices (fair, consistent, normative)
For example, if a team leader monitors the team and observes that it is inconsistent vis-à-vis the members sometimes treating in-group members differently from out-group members, then the leader might intervene and change his or her own behavior to be fair and consistent to all members.
External Environmental Leadership Actions. The “External Leadership Actions” (Figure 14.1) reflect those actions the leader might implement to improve the environmental interface with the team. Real-life teams do not exist in a laboratory—they are subsystems of the larger organizational and societal context. To stay viable, the team needs to monitor this environment closely and determine what actions should be taken to enhance team effectiveness (Barge, 1996; Hyatt & Ruddy, 1997; Zaccaro et al., 2001). If environmental monitoring suggests a leadership intervention, then the leader needs to select from the following functions:
· Networking and forming alliances in environment (gathering information, increasing influence)
For example, if the leader observes that the team’s members are not well known or are not well connected throughout the organization, then the leader might intervene by interacting and forming relationships with powerful and respected individuals in the organization.
· Advocating and representing team to environment
For example, if the leader learns that organizational superiors are unaware of the team’s successes, the leader might initiate an “FYI” policy, sending information about all successes upward as they happen. The leader can also initiate a team newsletter that chronicles team efforts to accomplish the same function but to a broader context.
· Negotiating upward to secure necessary resources, support, and recognition for team
For example, a leader might determine that the team does not have enough clerical support to accomplish its goals. The leader then negotiates with upper management to provide the needed support or, if failing in this, to persuade upper management to alter the team’s goals accordingly.
· Buffering team members from environmental distractions
For example, if the leader observes that the team is overloaded with tasks, then he or she might intervene by keeping unnecessary demands and distractions away from the team members so that they can concentrate on their goals.
· Assessing environmental indicators of team’s effectiveness (surveys, evaluations, performance indicators)
For example, if the leader observes that the members of the team have no way of knowing how well they are doing, the leader can provide data from the environment as to how their performance stacks up with other teams.
· Sharing relevant environmental information with team
For example, if the team leader reviews the environment and finds that the organization’s business is going in a new direction, he or she can share this information with the team to keep them in line with these new directions.
Team leadership is complex; there are no simple recipes for team success. Team leaders must learn to be open and objective in understanding and diagnosing team problems and skillful in selecting the most appropriate actions (or inactions) to help achieve the team’s goals. It is important to reemphasize that these critical functions need not be carried out only by the leader. Experienced members in a mature team might share these leadership behaviors. As long as the team’s critical needs have been met, the leadership behavior, whether enacted by the leader or team members, has been effective. The key assertion of the functional perspective is that the leader is to do whatever is necessary to take care of unmet needs of the team. If the team members are taking care of most of the needs, then the leader has to do very little.