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Leaders: Team Building Starts With You

February 17, 2015
Borderless Leadership

Team building starts with the leader. That does not mean that the leader needs to be the final say in how everything transpires. It also does not mean that all decisions need to come from the top down, they can come from the bottom up where those who sit in the trenches can bring many of the organizations challenges to light. This requires leaders to embrace a radical concept: some of the best decisions are made as a team, not through direction. In this article we will discuss the challenges of building team cohesion.

Consider the following… there is no “I” in leader. There is no “I” in team. They are present in team cohesion, building and dynamics. The new paradigm for successful teams requires the leader and followers to focus less on authoritarian style leadership and align more with servant-leader style leadership. This allows all to share power and removes the “I” from the team.

Building Cohesive Teams Takes Work

Leaders: We should have our “I” on Team Building!

When shifting to this style of leadership you need to have the support of the organizational leadership team. It is difficult to move into a team-based approach when you stand alone in your desire to share power. Many do not want to relinquish it therefore it becomes a challenge when you make the decision to move down this path. For those who have always followed the servant-leader style of leadership, it can be a challenge working in an organization that does not embrace it. For example, if you are hired as a leader into an organization where there is a board that believe all decision making comes from the top down, your efforts to support a bottom up approach may meet great resistance.

If you do have organizational support (which makes this process easier and more rewarding), you will find that you can develop your team’s skills which maps to improved productivity. This can also create other tangible benefits such as accomplished projects and/or more team output. Intangible benefits include: enthusiasm, increased morale and participation in organizational efforts outside of assigned duties. Since a leader is likely gauged on the team’s output, having team members working toward the mutual goals of the department/organization benefits the entire team including the leaders involved.

All of this takes work and as mentioned before… requires a different way of thinking. We do not accomplish great things without change. As times change so must we. We do not achieve without developing our teams and future leaders. The best leaders develop their teams. The best leaders also embrace change.

Role of the Leader

When you consider the development of teams, a question we could ask is: what is the role of the leader? In this model, the leader is the coach. The leader is the team builder, the motivator, the driver or the guide. There are specific qualities (or traits) that make up the servant-leader.

Do you listen? If you have poor listening skills, wait to speak or wait to be heard you will not be a good servant-leader. It will be difficult to build a cohesive team (top down/bottom up) if you fail to listen.

Do you believe in the greater good? If you are out for yourself, looking to make a name, willing to throw your team or its members under the bus for your own safety then you will definitely fail as a servant-leader.

Do you enable trust? Building trust is important. If your team does not feel comfortable speaking with you or to you, it will be difficult to develop a bottom up transparency model. If you are not willing to listen, only give directives or are generally untrustworthy you may find being a servant-leader incredibly difficult.

Are you empathetic? If you create an open atmosphere where others can share their challenges, their passions and they suggestions with you without fear you may make a good servant-leader.

Do you believe in team building, developing others or succession planning? Servant-leaders need to provide their followership with a sense of ‘we are in this together’ for them to believe in you. Since your goals should be to develop your team professionally and build the next generation of leaders, this should not be a foreign idea, however if you are in it for “I” then this is not the path for you.

Developing cohesive teams takes time. When you use a servant-leader style, it takes time to develop. It is not a quick fix. It is also not a good fit for those who are narcissistic, out for themselves or do not believe in the greater good. In fact, it could create inner conflict for those who do not believe in the greater good, but only look out for themselves.

The role of the leader in team-building is to lead the team. Guide them. Develop them. Share with them and never think of “I”. Great leaders think of ‘we”.


Being a leader is a challenge. Building teams can also be extremely challenging. It can be the greatest experience of your lifetime when you develop great teams, great leaders in your succession planning efforts and all of your hard work comes to fruition. When leaders look out for themselves they miss an opportunity to achieve greatness. Greatness is achieved when realized by many. It is realized when it is achieved by the team. Remember, think of “we”. There is no “I” in team.

By Rober Shimonski

Source: LinkedIn

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