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The Fascinating Science of Team Leadership

Team leadership represents a vital feature in fostering the productivity of a team.

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Defining the team’s direction as propounded by the leader is a crucial success factor and helps maximize effectiveness and make a significant contribution to the organization. Although there is enough literature regarding the ubiquity of leadership influences on organizational performance, it is surprising that very little has been researched on the leader and team dynamics. Therefore, the former examples of leadership in the framework of teams focused on the leader’s influence on team members to get work done. In contrast, now leaders focus on garnering integration of the strengths of each team member.

The path-goal theory is a self-explanatory example showing the leader’s influence on the outcome through the team’s efforts. It is seen that the leader sets expectations with the subordinates instead of helping individual team members develop the skills and capabilities required to achieve the said goals.

Alternatively, some models of team productivity denote leadership progressions as essential drivers of the team. Hence, to put it concisely, for the development of teamwork as a concept crucial to the success and growth of an organization, there are specific vital points regarding the conducts that display better team leadership and the prerequisite know-how, talents, aptitudes and other attributes that develop team leadership. These findings highlighted the requirement for conceptual models and further research to understand leadership impacts and team dynamics better.

Related: 6 Essential Leadership Skills That Drive Success

It is a familiar gesture to appoint better qualified people in terms of knowledge, position or expertise to leadership positions. Nevertheless, there exist several such circumstances at work where these formal criteria are not considered before appointing someone to a leadership position. Indeed, many staff members do not have the elevated status of seniority and experience but are still identified as team leaders. Numerous researchers and theorists have attempted to observe and understand such personalities who acquire leadership roles in teams. Interestingly, the study of group interaction reveals that team members appointed as leaders are inclined to contribute to team discussions at an early stage. It is believed that being the rigid silent type is not an effective strategy. In the beginning, it is often seen that the one who talks the most in the group interactions is the one who emerges as the team leader. The quantity of their contributions indicates other team members of the individual’s intent to occupy the leadership position. In contrast, the quality of their contributions denotes whether the members accept the person as team leader.

Related: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow ...

There are two sorts of proficiencies that team members usually look for. First, the team members search for what is called socio-emotional competence. Individuals who are seen as having this competence seem to be capable of influencing group dealings and cohesion. Second, teams recognize the intensity of task ability in personages, people who appear to be apt to be part of the problem-solving process and efficacy of the group. This broad division can be further broken down into several more specific competencies. Naval officers display five types of competence: task achievement, skillful use of leadership, management control, advising and counseling, and coercion. All kinds of competence other than coercion predicted whether a person would emerge as a leader. As mentioned earlier in the introduction part of the paper, it is preferred to adopt transformational leadership while leading a team.

Charles de Gaulle once commented: “In the designs, the demeanor and the mental operations of a leader there must always be a ‘something’ which others cannot altogether fathom, which puzzles them, stirs them and diverts their attention.” This mysterious something that some team leaders must have to inspire their subordinates to do things beyond their capabilities and into sometimes unquestioning compliance seems to have been lost in the theories and research discussed so far. The feeling that the romance, mystery and even the subject matter of leadership have been lost in abstract conceptualizations has caused a resurgence of interest in transformational or charismatic leadership.

Powerholders have in their job the capacity to influence others. To be a team leader, the individual must induce followers to act for specific goals representing the values, motivations and expectations of both leaders and followers. Transactional leadership is simply a mutual exchange for economic or political reasons between leader and follower. In transformational leadership, a more profound and robust process is present. Here, one or more persons engage with others so that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.

What is central to transformational leadership is the two-way nature of the leader and follower relationship. There have been a few attempts to explain the psychological basis of this relationship. However, the appeal of leaders operates at a symbolic, unconscious level. Leaders represent the return of the primal father with whom it is easy to identify as the father of our early childhood. In the mass of humankind, we know that there is a strong need for an authority who can be admired, before whom one bows down, by whom one is ruled and perhaps even ill-treated.

Leaders are, therefore, a prime target for the process of transference. Thus, leaders benefit from psychological confusion about who they are as they become mixed up in the follower’s minds with significant individuals from their childhood. And while transference stimulates our dependency needs, another process, projection, enables us to attribute the leader with our desires and fantasies. The thrill experienced by followers of charismatic leaders is partly the result of being able to rid themselves of prohibitions; the leader becomes their conscience.

From this perspective, all leadership is potentially charismatic. Some leaders, however, are more aware of these processes and may actively encourage them. By speaking directly to a follower’s unconscious through metaphor, simile, straightforward language and stark contrasts, some leaders can harness the processes of transference and projection. Many organizations have either benefited from or have been rescued by constructive forms of charismatic leadership. However, many spectacular crashes result from the dark side of charismatic leadership. While some leaders can use these processes constructively, others are ultimately destroyed by them.

Related: 8 Qualities of Great Leaders Who Get the Best Out of Their Teams