5 Areas of Responsibility of A Leader
To answer the question - “what is a leader?” - we must look at what a leader does. In order to understand what a leader does, we must examine the environment in which a leader functions.
To understand the leader’s environment we need two essential embedded bits of knowledge. First we need to know that a leader works within a team. Secondly, we must understand that a team is a group of people that are united by a common need or passion, and share a common vision. (Read "The Absurdity Of Leadership")
Armed with this information, let’s turn our attention to the team for a brief moment. We understand that an assembly of people can be taken from a group to a high performance team through five progressive stages (Read 5 Stages of Team Development). These stages include forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
To fully appreciate and comprehend leadership and the function of a leader, let’s look at the leaders’ responsibilities in each of the phases:
1. Forming: The forming stage of team development is defined by the assembly of the team, selected to pursue a specific vision. Team members meet each other for the first time, are on good behaviour, are skilled, share a common need, but are yet to be exposed to the vision. At this stage the team is dependent on the leader for guidance, orientation and resources. The leader plays a central role in introducing team members to one another, and fostering rapport between them. The responsibilities of a leader during this phase include:
a. Identifying candidate team members that share the common passion / need
b. Assembling team members and resources to achieve the vision
c. Sharing the vision with team members and evoking “buy-in”
d. Defining roles and responsibilities for each team member
e. Assist in the identifying of goals for respective team members
f. Delegate respective authority and accountabilities.
g. Training/coaching/mentoring of skills, knowledge or attitude that may be required to realise the vision
2. Storming: The storming stage is a turbulent time in the team’s development. This phase is
marked by conflict between team members as they volley their own ideas and suggestions to outshine others for the leader’s attention. Team members function individually in silos, unwilling to support or assist and regard any support as interference. Team members are aware of the vision, but are not focused on its achievement. The leader is burdened with sorting resources and resolving conflict. Goal achievement is weak and infrequent. This is an emotionally draining time for the leader, which will see weak or new leaders giving up, racked with strain and anger. The main responsibilities of a leader in this phase are:
a. Periodically getting resources for team members as they find their feet
b. Remind team members of the vision, ensuring commitment to te bigger picture
c. Assist respective team members with defining of boundaries, goals and critical tasks within respective areas of function.
d. Conflict resolution: yes, it is part of team development are you had better be prepared to deal with it on a regular basis.
e. Emphasis goals set, encouraging team members to focus on the bigger picture.
f. Training/coaching/mentoring of skills, knowledge or attitude that may be required to realise the vision
3. Norming: Calm slowly returns to the group as they exchange their personal ego for focus and commitment to the vision. The emphasis is less about their own ideas and more on what will move the team forward. Team members start to function within their roles, providing assistance to other team members as they move out of their silo into a “team” space. Team members start to take on the responsibility of acquiring their own resources. This phase is characterised by goal achievement. The leader can take a deep breath in this phase, and check progress towards achieving of the vision. Calibration and corrections to the team’s direction may be required. The leaders responsibilities change in this phase to assisting:
a. Check team is on track to achieve Vision
b. Set and reset goals and tasks for team members
c. Periodically offer advice and guidance to team members as required.
d. Ensure effective networking between team members
e. Observe and track progress, taking on role of mentor
f. Focus on positive motivation and constructive feedback sessions
4. Performing: The desired phase of team development is achieved as team members frequently achieve goals on a regular basis. Team members in this phase are efficient at acquiring their own resources. They now motivate one another, sharing is each other’s success. Conflict during this phase is directed to ensure constructive outcomes. The leader is relaxed, observing team members from a distance, ensuring they remain on course to achieve the vision. The vision is often well within reach when a team enters this phase. The leaders main responsibilities during this phase include:
a. Positive motivation and feedback sessions
b. Mentoring of team members if required
c. Aware of approaching success with successful achievement of vision
d. Offer “recognition and rewards” sessions to achieving team members
e. Prepare team members as successors to the leadership role
5. Adjourning: Once the team has successfully achieved the vision, the time comes for the team to disband and move onto other projects. A leader’s time will be taken up by arranging celebrations and preparing team members to move on / up or forward within their careers, ambitions or level of leadership.
The dynamics of these phases are not always clear cut, (See "The Absurdity of Leadership) and any team could experience two phases simultaneously. It is important for the leader to correctly identify the phase in which the team moves through, and adjust style and approach accordingly. The leader must have a dynamic ability to mix project management with people skills in order to successfully navigate the team through all the phases to produce desired results.