Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Team Leadership

Team leadership or self-directed and self-managed teams: What is the best way to manage teams in organizational settings in today’s complex environment?

External team leadership relates to the influence and authority that a leader has over a team, one who is responsible for the teams’ performance (Mathieu et al., 2008).  External team leaders serve as coordinators of operations, as liaisons and guides for the team (Mathieu et al., 2008).  Druskat and Wheeler (2003) identified that external leaders were a forgotten group where organizations concentrated on building teams rather than supporting external team leaders.

Coaching is another form of leadership that could be used to assist and manage teams.  According to Mathieu et al. (2008) team coaching refers to “direct interaction with a team to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of their collective resources in accomplishing the team’s work” (p. 450).  Team coaches motivate team members through encouraging process gains, they provide consultative services assisting effective task strategies, and they educate / train team members.

Shared leadership refers to the distribution of leadership duties among team members.  This distribution among team members is based on the members experience and expertise.  Mathieu et al. (2008) identified that shared leadership “emerges from members’ collective knowledge, skills, and abilities” (p. 450).

Complexity theory indicates that some systems are self-organizing without a leader (Mitchell, 2009).  The concept of self-organization is obtained through complexity theory by utilization of emergence and autocatalytic interactions (Mitchell, 2009).  Emergence refers to nonlinear change in complex systems that foster innovation and self-directed change (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007).  Autocatalytic interactions involve both internal (within team) and external (external of team) interactions required for task accomplishment.

While teams are being used by organizations to adapt to complex environments the question arises as to what type of team leadership works best?  From your experience and/or knowledge, which type of team leadership is most effective for organizations?

Druskat, V. U., & Wheeler, J. V. (2003).  Managing from the boundary: The effective leadership of self-managing work teams.  Academy of Management Journal, 46(4), 435-457. Retrieved from
Mathieu, J., Maynard, M. T., Rapp, T., & Gilson, L. (2008).  Team effectiveness 1997-2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future.  Journal of Management, 34(3), 410-476.  doi: 10.1177/0149206308316061
Mitchel, M. (2009).  Complexity: A Guided Tour.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007).  Complexity leadership theory: Shifting from the industrial age to the knowledge era.  The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 298-318.  doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.002
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