Sunday, July 31, 2011

Team Leader Performance Functions

Team leadership is one critical component to a teams success. Zaccaro et al. (2001) identified that teams are required to successfully integrate individual actions, operate in an emerging complex environment, and provide some form of team leadership to define its goals and tasks. In a previous post I identified that team members were not too concerned about the type of leadership that a team was exposed to - as long as fundamental leadership characteristics were being practiced. Zaccaro et al. (2001) concluded: "effective leadership processes represent perhaps the most critical factor in the success of organizational teams" (p. 452).

A team leaders' actions need to be designed to match the circumstances of the group - "not just any leadership action contributes to group effectiveness" (Zaccaro et al., p. 455). Burke et al. (2006) described that a leader is effective "to the degree that he/she ensures that all functions critical to task and team maintenance are completed" (p. 289). This requires the leader to continuously monitor the progress of the team, thus operating in a dynamic environment. This constant alignment of a leaders' actions to meet the needs of the group are supported by Burkes' et al. (2006) definition of team leadership: "team leadership can be described as a dynamic process of social problem solving accomplished through generic responses to social problems" (p. 289). Fleishman et al. (1991) also identified team leadership as a social problem solving activity where he provided a taxonomy of leadership performance functions that can aid a leader to better align his/her actions to match the circumstances of the group. This taxonomy consists of:

1) Information Search and Structuring
2) Information Use in Problem Solving
3) Managing Personnel Resources
4) Managing Material Resources

Information search and structuring refer to a leader's acquisition, evaluation, and organization of information pertaining to the teams goals. This first dimension, Information Search and Structuring, is composed of three subordinate dimensions: a) acquiring information, b) organizing and evaluating information, and c) feedback and control (Zaccaro et al, 2001). Information use in problem solving consist of the leader's application of information acquired for goal attainment. The second dimension, Information Use in Problem Solving, is made up of three subordinate dimensions: a) identifying needs and requirements, b) planning and coordinating, and c) communicating information (Zaccaro et al., 2001).

Both dimensions, Managing Personnel Resources and Managing Material Resources, involves the implementation of plans and solutions (Zaccaro et al., 2001). The Managing Personnel Resources dimension is composed of four subordinate dimensions: a) obtaining and allocating personnel resources, b) developing personnel resources, c) motivating personnel resources, and (d) utilizing personnel resources. The fourth dimension, Managing Material Resources, is made up of three subordinate dimensions: a) obtaining and allocating material resources, b) maintaining material resources, and c) utilizing and monitoring material resources (Zaccaro et al., 2001).

While it is not important that one single person, a single team leader, accomplish all of the functions listed in the taxonomy, it is important that these functions are completed, either by one single leader or through the distributed efforts of the team members. Listed below is the full taxonomy of team leader behaviors, provided by Fleishman et al., (1991):

Leader Behavior Dimensions
1. Information search and structuring
a. Acquiring information
b. Organizing and evaluating information
c. Feedback and control

2. Information use in problem solving
a. Identifying needs and requirements
b. Planning and coordinating
c. Communicating information
3. Managing personnel resources
a. Obtaining and allocating personnel resources
b. Developing personnel resources
c. Motivating personnel resources
d. Utilizing and monitoring personnel resources
4. Managing material resources
a. Obtaining and allocating material resources
b. Maintaining material resources
c. Utilizing and monitoring material resources

References:

Burke, C. S., Stagl, K. C., Klein, C., Goodwin, G. F., Salas, E., & Halpin, S. M. (2006). What type of leadership behaviors are functional in teams? A meta-analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 288-307.

Fleishman, E. A., Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Levin, K. Y., Korotkin, A. L., & Hein, M. B. (1991). Taxonomic efforts in the description of leaders behavior: a synthesis and functional interpretation. The Leadership Quarterly, 2(4), 245-287.

Zaccaro, S. J., Rittman, A. L., & Marks, M. A. (2001). Team leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 12, 451-483.
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