Monday, July 21, 2008

Share the lead for successful teamwork

So, you put together a team to address the latest problem at hand and now you’re wondering who to put in charge. If you want the group to be effective, you won’t put anyone in charge.

At least that’s the latest teamwork advice out of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Their researchers found that teams are the most successful and productive if leadership is shared among team members.

“Our research, in fact, suggests that teams that perform poorly tend to be dominated by the team leader, while high-performing teams have a shared-leadership structure,” according to the WSJ.

Generally, teams in a work environment are set up to follow the long-standing model where one person in charge and everyone else falls in line. But, the latest research flips that idea upside down.

When you a team who specialize in the different, the collective knowledge will be greater than having one individual leader running the show. With shared leadership, team members step-up when their specific expertise is needed.

It’s an innovative approach to developing successful work teams, but one that’s also worth a try. The WSJ studied dozens of teams in a variety of industries and found that shared leadership led to the best results.

Like everything, shared leadership does have some drawbacks. The practice is most successful when teams have had time to develop, have a good sense of each person’s strengths and know when each person should be in charge.

Strong personalities may also hinder team success. When team members get too pushy or don’t have the confidence to lead, the shared leadership technique can easily fail. Team members must also have the proper management skills to lead one another successfully.

“Instead of seeing the matter as a black-and-white choice, companies should ask some simple -- but crucial -- questions. When is it a good idea to share the reins? And if we do decide to go that route, what steps can we take to make sure we're ready? Companies that apply shared leadership judiciously can see tremendous gains.”

Read the full WSJ article.

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