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Balancing as the Key to Team Leadership Success

Mary Lewinson
November 3, 2011

How to make your leadership better

balanced team leadershipA project manager who is the true leader of the project team and provides balanced leadership to the rest of the people involved in the project seems to have an endless supply of energy that makes all the stakeholders feel enthusiastic about the work to be done. That person enables the followers to successfully deal with project risks and address any issues that might seem to be unsolvable if there’s no leadership balance reached. The manager empowers and supports the team by providing advice and guidance. But where does the manager get the energy from? How does this individual lead the team? Finally, what does balanced team leadership mean to you and how do you know whether you are a good leader and can reach success? Let’s focus on answering all these questions in this article.


First of all, let’s find out the meaning of leadership. If to be simple, leadership means an activity or a series of actions a leader performs to make the team produce desired results under specified requirements and within present timeframes. Leadership means engaging the team in doing the right things in the right way at the right time by consuming the right resources. The term refers to the art of guiding and driving a team to the final desired outcome.

Here’s a broader definition of team leadership:

Team Leadership is a strategically important activity of managing a team through providing team members with the right direction to follow, keeping the team focused on that direction and ensuring that every action made by the team contributes to the achievement of common goals and objectives. It is a supervisory and directive role that drives the collaborative process of developing and realizing ideas to achieve positive change in a working environment.

Two Sides

As the given definition says, team leadership aims to make some positive change to existing operations and activities. Meanwhile, just like any other activity, team leadership has two sides – positive and negative. It means that team leading can produce some adverse and undesired result. And it is the key task of a team leader to do everything possible to ensure positive change. Let’s learn more about the two side of team leadership.

  • The positive side tells a team to focus on doing the right stuff that is identified and defined by strict guidelines, policies and rules. This enables the team to act in a predictable manner and produce desired results. Predictability drives success. The key challenge here is that the leader has to develop and present a desired way of implementation and team behavior in advance, before the group starts doing the work.
  • It seems to be nonsense but the consequence of the positive side (I mean predictability) creates the bad or negative side of leadership. The bad side means that team members are prohibited to do the things in some another way that contradicts the strictly defined way. They are denied to use their own imagination and creativity to do assigned tasks, but only allowed to follow the team leader’s guidance. They are supposed to perform the work as defined by the team leader. As a result, the team can stuck doing the things in the prescribed way (because this way is not perfect and can fail the team effort), with no permission for initiative and local decision making.

Please note that these descriptions of the team leadership sides are very simplified and shortened. I try to focus you on the key issues of the phenomenon while saying nothing about all those positive relationships that a team leader can build with team members through partnership, trust, motivation, free & open thinking, and so on. I just write about the key point, with no focus on the details.

Reaching the Balance

So as a good team leader you have to consider both sides of leadership. How to do that? Well, the best way is to reach the balance between the sides. I mean you must find a way to direct your team under stick guidelines and policies while trying to create an open and free thinking environment that lets every group member make local (tactical) decisions.

Thus, balancing will be the key to team leadership success. I personally believe that balancing is the key to success of any endeavor, no matter whether you or your team are going to construct a building, write a book, hold a presentation, shop for some items, or even losing weight. Balancing means finding and using the right combination of factors that are most critical to success of your endeavor (whatever it is).

Here’re my suggestions on reaching the balance in team leading:

  • Keep team goals clear, well-defined and unambiguous. It means the team needs to understand what to reach by their effort and time. If the goals are understandable, you balance the positive and negative sides because 1) the team knows what to reach and 2) they have no need to look for workarounds and solutions (everything is strictly defined so the team environment tends to be predictable). The SMART method (which is one of the most popular methods of goal setting) is suggested for setting collaborative goals and objectives.
  • Keep the team interested in the work. This step requires you to make all collaborative tasks and activities interesting for every team member. It says that if a person is enabled to use his/her own imagination and creativity in doing assigned work then this person is likely to be interested in getting positive results of the endeavor. In such a way you balance your leadership and guidance with the team’s initiative. I suggest you use brainstorming, group discussions, and formal/informal team meetings to let the team express their thoughts and ideas regarding the work they are assigned to.
  • Bring the challenge in the work. Your team will show better performance if they perform challenging tasks and activities. Why? Because a challenge makes us work better (sure if we’re well motivated). A challenging working environment lets your group generate new ideas and leads to team improvement and development. A good and reasonable (!) challenge energizes the team. In such a way you balance the two sides because 1) you strengthen the team’s vitality and 2) the team gets involved in handling challenging tasks which others shy away from.
  • Engage the team in value-adding assignments only. It means you must be sure that your people do only those tasks and activities that add some value to collaborative goals or specific mission. For example, your team performs a marketing project that contributes to brand image enhancement. Remember every piece of work should aligned with strategic goals and expectations; otherwise your team effort will have no positive effect to those goals and expectations. By doing this step, you reach the balance between the team leadership sides because 1) your people recognize their contribution to high-level goals and objectives and 2) you ensure that the contribution positively affect your organization.

These were my 4 suggestions you can try to follow to reach balanced team leadership. I hope my suggestions will be helpful to you. Please leave your comments. Thanks.

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