Do Leaders Need To Be Strong Team Players?

In a recent leadership workshop comprised of senior leaders of a firm there was so much discussion about the challenges of their team. As with so many other companies, this organization put more focus on taking care of their external clients rather than taking care of its internal team. They thought that as long as the customers seemed happy there was no need to make any adjustments with the team’s direction. Yet it was obvious that these leaders were not functioning as a cohesive group and saw no need to be strong team players.

As the program continued it became more and more apparent that maybe understanding the dynamics of their internal team might actually help grow their client base. If they were able to iron out their differences and restart their team by everyone moving in the same direction, they realized how that might be helpful for their clients.

How can leaders become strong team players?

See The Value Of Being Part Of A Team

Teams can accomplish great things if the team is perceived as being productive and caring. Of course that means team members feel connected to one another and appreciated by the other members. What that can look like is thanking members for their contributions and hard work as well as sharing meaningful work. It is also important for the team to create values that all the members buy into.

Understand Their Strengths And Blindspots

To be a strong team player requires leaders to have a deep read on the areas they excel as well as the areas that may detract from the team’s success. Some ways to key into our strengths and blind spots are:

  • Ask other team members about your talents and gifts.
  • Meet with others for suggestions to overcome some weaknesses.
  • Take part in a DiSC or Myers-Briggs Inventory assessment.
  • Encourage feedback from team members to grow.

Be Willing To Share The Truth About Others

A strong team player is also able to tell members about their areas to grow as well as positive contributions they are making. As long as we share our ideas in a respectful way and there is a team culture of supporting each other, this feedback can be so helpful. It’s only when we are afraid to be honest with others that our teams derail.

Put Their Egos On A Back Burner

Egos can run amuck on many teams if each leader thinks their responsibilities and projects are most important above all else. In Patrick Lencioni’s extraordinary book, The Ideal Team Player, he points out the importance of team players being humble. That means:

  • Putting the needs of the team ahead of our own.
  • Not being arrogant.
  • Treating every person on the team with respect.

Help Their Team Honor Their Purpose

Without a purpose team players are unclear about the actions they should take or decisions they should make. To perform in sync it is essential for leaders to crystallize where they are headed and share that message with everyone they come into contact with. Why is this important? When team members see their work being part of a greater picture they are more likely to work harder and achieve more. Think about how you are making the lives of your customers better.

How have you become a strong team player? What leadership decisions have helped you create a more impactful team?

(Image Credit: Pixabay)

6 thoughts on “Do Leaders Need To Be Strong Team Players?

  1. Great point about how easy it is to take care of external clients rather than taking care of its internal team. I’ve seen this happen so many times…it’s almost like Mission Creep because the org starts out with clear goals and vision but over time, they morph into something very different. You provide clear guidelines for how leadership can get back on focus…will share with others.

  2. I love your “mission creep” metaphor LaRae! But that’s exactly what happens when leaders mostly focus on outside customers and neglect growing their team members. Sharing our organizational purpose and goals and helping colleagues find their gifts can be beneficial to our customers too. Thanks LaRae!

  3. I’ve worked for leaders who saw themselves as apart from most of the team… above. Every time the gave feedback on team progress it was more of an accusation than a feeling of “we’re in it together.” It was painful for those that were on the outside when in truth, we all should have been on the inside. We were the team – all of us.

    Important points here, Terri. Will share for sure!


  4. Your story is so poignant as it exemplifies what can happen when leaders stop focusing on their team’s growth and spend all their time on their external customers. Also as your story shows when leaders don’t check their egos at the back door their team will often derail and become demotivated.

    Thanks so much Alli for your continued support and suggestions!

  5. Great post Terri! Teamwork can make or break an organization. I’ve witnessed Executives that strongly disliked each other, influence their teams not to play well together. Often trapping customers in the middle of a departmental tug-of-war, wasting time and resources, and profits, and destroying customer loyalty. And I’ve watched frontline teams accomplish things that no one dreamed were possible because of the way they worked together.

    And it all starts with what you said – understanding the of being a part of the team or not…

  6. Your examples are very typical of what happens on many teams where leaders forget the importance of being advocates and thinkers. A team can be very powerful when each member leads and is encouraged to play to their strengths. Focusing on our internal teams is critical before tackling our external clients.

    Thanks Chery!

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