Jennifer F. Vivas
Education Program Supervisor
Department of Education – National Capital Region
Leaders play an active role in making team performance effective (Hannah, Walumbwa, & Fry, 2011) in modern organisational settings. A body of literature shed light on the value of having an effective leader on board who possesses the leadership traits, competencies and leadership styles (Blanchard & Hersey, 1996; Goleman, 1998) that are facilitative on team effectiveness that impact on overall organisational performance (Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013). Interestingly, leaders’ awareness on team composition (Bel, Smirnov, & Wait, 2015) is a relevant consideration for leaders in forming teams. The purpose of this paper is to explore some valuable aspects of successful modern organisation particularly on leaders’ traits, competencies, leadership styles and teams composition. Presented in this paper are the context of modern organisation and the imperatives to succeed in the stiff business competition, followed by differentiation between a group and team, and then a discussion on successful leaders’ traits, competencies and leadership styles. Finally, a discussion on the importance for leaders to know the right people to put together to work as a team in order to ensure team effectiveness which ultimately contribute to organisational performance.
The landscape of modern organisations is shaped by technological advancements, globalization and by the continually changing business environment. Modern organisations operate in a highly dynamic, more sophisticated, erratic milieu with diverse mix of talents that work in teams (Verle,
Markic, & Kodric, 2014). The key to its existence and success is not just gauged by its financial position but also in its capacity to deliver quality management (Verle, Markic, Kodric, & Zoran, 2014) in a much more horizontal and ‘flat’ (Friedman, 2006) configuration where teams play a pivotal role in its overall performance. Under the premise of a high performing organisation, all units within it must work in congruence with one another to achieve a common goal (Verle, Markic, & Kodric, 2014). Apparently, leaders need to know the right mix of talents who can be effective when put together in teams (Bel et al., 2015). Thus, for modern organisations to survive, aside from managing change, they should never lose sight of the value of human capital (Coetzee, Visagie, & Ukpare, 2012).
TEAMS VERSUS GROUPS
There is an extant literature that revolve around team effectiveness, characteristics and team composition that leads to increased organisational performance. High performing organisations leveraged on teams intentionally formed to fulfill specific functions within their organisation. A couple of renowned multinational companies such as the General Electric and Proctor and Gamble have proven the effectiveness of teams in obtaining overall efficiency, cost-effectiveness and productivity (Recardo, III, & Jolly, 2009). Leaders in these organisations knew the need to foster a culture of teamwork within their organisations, i.e., to put people together in teams not just in groups. The pioneering work of colleagues, Katzenbach and Smith in 1993, shed light on the difference between group and team specifically in terms of performance and accountability of members. They observed that people in a group share information, ideas and insights in order to strengthen and support one another for optimum individual performance. Whereas members of a team put their talents and skills into use in achieving a common purpose whilst they also take ownership of what they do together as a team as well as accountability for their performance. Hence, effective teams can accomplish far beyond what individual members can achieve (Katzenbach & Smith, 2005). Effective teams do not just happen. Every organisation needs a leader who has the capacity to build effective teams within the organisation (Goleman, 2014a). Hence, leaders play a crucial role in the organisation specifically in motivating employees (Tung & Chang, 2011) at all levels of the organisation.
LEADERS WITH THE RIGHT STUFFS
Thus, the enabler of team effectiveness and driver towards organisational success is an excellent leader (Hannah et al., 2011) who possesses the ‘right stuffs’ (Goleman, 1998, p. 88) such as intellect, and technical ability but most importantly the soft competencies of leadership, particularly, emotional intelligence. Furthermore, Goleman (1998, p.88) argued that although hard leadership competencies are requisites for excellent leadership, what really matters is the leader’s ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence. He further explained that emotionally intelligent leaders have self-awareness or have the ability to use his/her gut feelings in making decisions alongside the available information at hand. In similar vein, they are also able to self-regulate, that is the ability to control their emotions when confronted with difficult situations. Third important component of emotional intelligence is the leaders’ ability to feel what others feel, to sense what it is like in the shoes of subordinates. Lastly, the most obvious of all is the ability to relate to other people through collaboration, negotiation and the ability to clearly articulate his/her vision as a leader (Goleman, 2014c). Hence, through the leader’s social skills, he/she is able to influence his/her followers (Hannah et al., 2011). It is also through this component of emotional intelligence that they are able to identify high potentials in the organisation who can be trained for future leadership (Goleman, 2014b, 2014c).
Leaders’ navigation through different leadership styles is important, as there is “no best style” (Goleman, 2014a, p. 42) that is appropriate for all situations. Goleman (2014a) identified six leadership styles such as authoritative, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetter and coercive. He argued that a leader use a combination of the six styles. According to Goleman (2014a), a leader is authoritative when he/she is able to promote organisational vision alongside specific actions for its attainment. While the coaching style of leadership requires leader’s expertise and time but is rewarding in the end. The affiliative style of leadership creates happy ambiance, and gives positive feedback. Goleman (2014) suggested the use of this style alongside authoritative style is best in keeping the balance between serious work targets and harmonious work environment. Democratic style is consultative in nature, this makes subordinates feel they are involved in decision-making and therefore lessen oppositions. The last two styles are pacesetting and coercive styles. He suggested the use of these styles sparingly or only when the need arise as these styles bring negative setback to the organisation for it kills employees’ motivation. What is interesting is that Goleman’s (2014a) paper on leadership styles is in accord with Blanchard and Hersey’s (1996, p.43-44), “Situational Leadership” theory. What these experts and researchers in the field are saying is that leaders use a variation of leadership styles depending on the situation confronting them.
It is worth noting that certain leadership styles facilitate team effectiveness. Recent studies reported the positive effect of empowering leadership style on team members’ task performance (Lorinkova, Pearsall, & Henry Sims, 2011) and cohesiveness (Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013; Tung & Chang, 2011), respectively, which led to greater team performance. Whilst effective leadership is important, perfect blend of people in teams is also a factor in achieving organisational targets (Bel et al., 2015). It is therefore important for today’s leaders to know the impact of team composition to organisational performance. Recent study reports that it is best to put together senior employees and new employees in teams for they are more likely to succeed in reaching optimal productivity. This is in contrast to the notion that workers familiarity in teams deliver higher level of productivity (Bel et al., 2015). However, one study observed that diverse orientation of team members create negative effect of overall team performance
Aside from mere knowledge about team composition, leaders should have an in-depth knowledge on how to blend people in teams to boost team performance. For example, one study found that impact of team membership change, team internal and external communication, team conflict, trust and psychological safety all impact on team performance (Reiter-Palmon, Ben-Wigert, & Vreede, 2012). This study gives valuable insights for leaders. For example, a change in team membership could lower overall team performance as the new comer might not be adept in the new assignment and therefore could negate productivity. Whilst internal communication foster team innovation and creativity. Likewise, the presence of conflicting views among team members in accomplishing team tasks contributes to creativity. In similar vein, external communication also help team to build network of support. Open communication, trust, collaboration and interdependence promote positive team outcomes (Reiter-Palmon et al., 2012). These are relevant inputs for modern organisational leaders.
In summary, the major driver for success in modern organisation is an excellent leader who has the intelligence, passion and power to influence people, technical expertise and knowledge on how to manage the organisation’s human capital. For organisations to succeed in the global arena, leaders must leverage on team performance. This is possible when a leader is knowledgeable on the proper mix of people to put in teams. If modern organisations must continue to persist in the global arena, leaders must be willing to explore and pay attention on how to build cohesive teams that can deliver positive outcomes.
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