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Why team players can be leaders too

The balance between leading and collaborating can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to manage it.

Is it possible to be both a leader and team player? Certainly – in fact, it’s not just possible, it’s vital. Collaboration and cooperation are fundamental to a strong business and no more important than in an environment with as many moving parts as fleet.

Being both team leader and team player means treading a fine line. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your team and making sure they get the most out of you.

Understand the personalities

Teams are made up of different types of people. Very often, members will fall naturally into their roles. Some are ‘doers’, happy to get involved in the nuts and bolts of a process, relishing the opportunity to work methodically through a to-do list.

Others are the ideas people. Highly creative, they’re often very good at seeing the bigger picture, understanding how a thought might fit into a long-term strategy. But when it comes to implementation they prefer to hand over to more process-driven individuals.

The doers are strong at implementation but they also need guidance from the conductors. These are team members who aren’t necessarily leading the whole department or organisation but are able to bring everything together and get the job done.

Recognise the individuals

Strong team leaders recognise the contribution of each team member and find ways to help them extend beyond their comfort zone.

Specialisms are useful but teams are made stronger by having members who can step into each other’s shoes occasionally. This strategy also brings perspective to tasks. Specialists can sometimes become blinkered and lack understanding of how their actions impact others. As a leader, if you help team members develop outside their zone, you increase harmony as well as the overall capability of the team.

Manage the outliers

Not everyone is a natural team player. It’s important to recognise the contribution these people – often identified as ‘outliers’ – can make while still managing the team dynamic. Outliers are people who don’t seem to gel – either they simply don’t contribute in team meetings in the way others do, or they don’t perform well in a team – preferring a rigid chain of command.

It is the outliers who tend to have a different worldview from the mainstream which can be very valuable. They are frequently able to see new angles to a problem and new opportunities for a business to exploit. Often businesses find it difficult to innovate because they’re so immersed in the day-to-day reality. Outliers’ different experiences help them to identify new paths.

Outliers can be exceptional people so it’s important to nurture their often more introverted personality.

Show your team spirit

Everything you’re asking of your team, you need to also ask of yourself. Team players communicate ideas but they also listen and absorb ideas that are different to their own.

If you ask your team to step outside their comfort zone, be prepared to show that you can do the same. Perhaps this is through delegating leadership of a project to another member, perhaps it’s mucking in with everyone to get something finished against deadline.

The trick is to keep all the moving parts in your team in balance, listen and be open to communication.

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