Guide to
Team Leadership


Direct leadership is face-to-face leadership. It generally occurs in organizations where subordinates see their leaders all the time: teams and departments. The direct leader’s span of influence may range from a few to dozens of people.

Direct leaders develop their subordinates one-on-one and influence the organization indirectly through their subordinates. For instance, a team leader is close enough to the team members to exert direct influence when observing training or interacting with members during other scheduled meetings.

Direct leaders generally experience more certainty and less complexity than organizational and strategic leaders. Mainly, they are close enough to the action to determine or address problems. Examples of direct leadership tasks are monitoring and coordinating team leadership efforts, providing clear and concise mission intent, and setting expectations for performance.

Executive Guide
Team Leadership


Organizational leaders influence several hundred to several thousand people. They do this indirectly, generally through more levels of subordinates and staffs than do direct leaders. The additional levels of subordinates can make it more difficult for them to see and judge immediate results. Organizational leaders have staffs to help them lead their people and manage their organizations’ resources. They establish policies and the organizational climate that support their subordinate leaders.

Organizational leaders their planning and focus generally ranges from two to ten years. Some examples of organizational leadership are setting policy, managing multiple priorities and resources, or establishing a long-term vision and empowering others to perform the mission.

While the same core leader competencies apply to all levels of leadership, organizational leaders usually work with more complexity, more people, greater uncertainty, and a greater number of unintended consequences. Organizational leaders influence people through policymaking and systems integration in addition to face-to-face contact.

Getting out of the office and visiting remote parts of their organizations is important for organizational leaders. They make time to verify if their staff’s reports match their own perceptions of the organization’s progress toward mission accomplishment. Organizational leaders use personal observation and visits by designated staff members to assess how well subordinates understand the commander’s intent and to determine if there is a need to reinforce or reassess the organization’s priorities.

Executive Team Leadership


Strategic leaders are responsible for large organizations and influence several thousand to hundreds of thousands of people. They establish structure, allocate resources, communicate strategic vision, and prepare their people for future roles.

Strategic leaders work in uncertain environments that present highly complex problems affecting or affected by events.

Strategic leaders apply all core leader competencies they acquired as direct and organizational leaders, while further adapting them to the more complex realities of their strategic environment.

Strategic leaders, like direct and organizational leaders, process information quickly, assess alternatives based on incomplete data, make decisions, and generate support. However, strategic leaders’ decisions can affect more people, commit more resources, and have wider-ranging consequences in space and time, than those of organizational and direct leaders.

Strategic leaders are important catalysts for change and transformation. Because they follow a long-term approach to planning, preparing, and executing, they often do not see their ideas come to fruition during their limited tenure. The transformation to more flexible, more rapidly deployable, and teams, is a good example of long-range strategic planning. While your organization relies on many leadership teams, it depends predominantly on organizational leaders to endorse the long-term strategic vision to reach all the organization. Because they exert influence primarily through staffs and trusted subordinates, strategic leaders must develop strong skills in selecting and developing talented and capable leaders for critical team positions.

Executive Team Leadership


When leaders of different elements with different roles align to a collective effort, they create the greatest amount of synergy to achieve the desired results.

Successful leadership depends on the alignment of purpose, direction, and motivation.

Leaders who work in isolation produce only limited results at best and—at worst—will unhinge other efforts. Coordinated actions of teams working toward the same purpose accomplish missions. Leaders working collectively are not only coordinating and synchronizing actions across organization operation, but they have a shared mindset as to how to create and maintain a positive climate. This unifying and collective aspect of leadership is undeniably an essential element of organizations all the way down to small teams.

Collective leaders—

·      Recognize that cohesive leadership has a greater impact than an individual leader has alone.

·      Consciously contribute to unifying beliefs, attitudes, and actions up and down and across leadership teams.

·      Concede personal power and control to subordinates, peers, and superiors when doing so will enhance a collective focus.

·      Sacrifice self-interest and personal or team accomplishments in favor of mutual goals.

·      Create and groom relationships with others inside and outside the organization that contribute to advancing goals.

·      Become aware of sources of expertise across a team and draw on it when needed.


To be effective team builders, organizational leaders must be able to identify and interact with both formal and informal teams, including—

·      The traditional chain of command.

·      Coordination directing unified action partners.

·      Technical channels combining leaders and staff.

Formal leadership is granted to individuals by virtue of assignment to positions of responsibility and is a function of rank and experience. Formal leader imposes their authority over subordinates through orders and directives.

Informal leadership exists throughout organizations, must support legitimate authority, and plays an important role in mission accomplishment. Informal leadership is not based on position in the organizational hierarchy. It can arise from knowledge, experience, or technical expertise and may require initiative on the part of the individual to assume responsibility. When leading without designated authority, informal leaders need to appreciate potential impacts and contribute to the team’s success. As the final decision maker, the formal leader is ultimately responsible for legitimizing an informal leader’s advice.

Although leading through other leaders is a decentralized process, it does not imply a commander or supervisor cannot step in and temporarily take active control if the need arises. However, bypassing the chain of command should be by exception and focused on solving an urgent problem or guiding an organization back on track with the leader’s original guidance.

Informal networks often arise both inside and outside formal organizations. Although leaders occupy positions of legitimate authority, groups form to share information and lessons gained from experience. When informal groups form, they often take on the same characteristics as formally designed organizations. As such, they develop norms unique to their network and seek legitimacy through their actions

Executive Team Leadership


Trust enables influence and mission command. When high levels of trust exist, people are more willing and naturally accepting of influence and influence is more likely to occur in multiple directions.

Trust encompasses reliance upon others, confidence in their abilities, and consistency in behavior. Trust builds over time through mutual respect, shared understanding, and common experiences. Communication contributes to trust by keeping others informed, establishing expectations, and developing commitments. Sustaining trust depends on meeting those expectations and commitments. Leaders and subordinates earn or lose trust through everyday actions and attitudes.

It is important for leaders to promote a culture and climate of trust. To establish trust, leaders create a positive team climate that fosters trust by identifying areas of common interest and goals. Teams develop trust through cooperation, identification with other members, and contribution to the team effort. Leaders build trust with their followers and those outside the organization by adhering to the leadership competencies and demonstrating good character, presence, and intellect. Leaders need to be competent and have good character to be trusted.

Leaders who coach, counsel, and mentor subordinates establish close relationships that foster trust. These relationships built on trust enable leaders to empower subordinates, encourage initiative, reinforce accountability, and allow for open communication. Further, these relationships establish predictability and cohesion within the team.

Failure to cultivate a climate of trust or a willingness to tolerate discrimination or harassment on any basis erodes team cohesion and breaks the trust subordinates have for their leaders. Unethical behavior, favoritism, personal biases, and poor communication skills erode trust. Broken trust often creates suspicion, doubt, and distrust. Restoring broken trust is not a simple process – it requires situational awareness and significant effort on the part of all parties affected.

Executive Team Leadership

Establishing a Positive Climate

After assessing the climate, leaders can monitor several key areas that indicate positive climate. Establishing clear and realistic goals for improvement is an important aspect. Communicating goals openly provides followers a clear vision to achieve. As subordinates meet these goals, leaders reward high performance that conforms to the proposed climate.

Communication between subordinates and leaders is essential to create a positive climate. Leaders empower subordinates to bring creative and innovative ideas forward, and they seek feedback from subordinates about the climate. The most effective action a leader can take to establish a positive climate is to demonstrate concern for their subordinates’ welfare. Openly engaging in pro-team or pro-organizational behaviors increases the likelihood that subordinates perceive leaders acting for the group’s welfare and they know the leader has the team’s best interests at heart.


Leaders influence others to achieve some purpose. To be successful at exerting influence, leaders have a goal in mind. Sometimes the goal will be very specific, while many are less distinct and unmeasurable, but are still valid and meaningful.

Leaders communicate purpose with implied or explicit instructions so others may exercise initiative while maintaining focus. This is important for situations when unanticipated opportunities arise, or the original solution no longer applies.

In addition to purpose, leaders provide direction. Direction deals with how to achieve a goal, task, or mission. Subordinates do not always need to receive guidance on the details of execution. The skilled leader will know when to provide detailed guidance and when to focus only on purpose.

Team Leadership conveys purpose without providing detailed direction. It provides the greatest possible freedom of action to subordinates, facilitating their abilities to develop the situation, adapt, and act decisively in dynamic conditions within the leader’s intent. It focuses on empowering subordinate leaders and sharing necessary information. For effective leaders must engage senior leaders, subordinate leaders, and their staffs in collaboration and dialogue that leads to enhanced situational understanding and decision making.

Motivation is the reason for doing something or the level of enthusiasm for doing it. Leaders use the knowledge of what motivates others to influence those they lead. Understanding how motivation works provides insight into why people may take action and how strongly they are driven to act.

It is important for the leader to define ‘what’ and ‘why’ clearly. Subordinates should be able to start the process with the end in mind by knowing what success looks like and how they can track progress. Motivation increases when subordinates understand how their role relates to larger and more important outcomes. This is important because such links are not always obvious to subordinates.

Goal setting is a way of shaping motivation. The key is to set achievable goals. Larger goals can be broken into smaller goals to keep individuals engaged. To work, the individual must have the necessary skills and abilities to perform the task, have some reason to be committed to the goal, and receive feedback to gauge progress. Task assignment and goal setting account for the characteristics and limitations of those performing the task. Finally, framing performance goals positively produces better persistence and performance than negative framing.

Leaders can encourage subordinates to set goals on their own and to set goals together. When goals are accepted, they focus attention and action, increase the effort and persistence expended even in the face of failure, and develop strategies to help in goal accomplishment.

Positive reinforcement such as tangible incentives (such as monetary rewards or time off) as well as intangible rewards (such as praise or recognition) can enhance motivation. Leaders can use healthy competition to renew intensity, such as recognition for the most improved score, the top five finishes, or those working together best. Punishment can be used when there is an immediate need to discontinue dangerous or otherwise undesirable behavior. It can send a clear message about behavioral expectations and the consequences of violating those expectations. One caution is that punishment should be used sparingly and only in extreme cases because it can lead to resentment.

People often want the opportunity to be responsible for their own work and to be creative—they want to be empowered. Leaders empower subordinates by training them to do a job and providing them with necessary task strategies; give them the necessary resources, authority, and clear intent; and then step aside to let them accomplish the mission. Empowering subordinates is a forceful statement of trust and one of the best ways of developing leaders. Empowerment implies accepting the responsibility for the freedom to act and create.

Team Leadership Summary

The most important element of successful team leadership is the flow down of “Organization Team Leadership Vision” and create the common purpose for the entire organization and teams. The best purpose for any organization is consistent “Improvement Activities”. If you are a leader you should agree that improving your business process is key to customer satisfaction, which leads to “Soft Profits”.

Moving forward, Team Building and Six Sigma methodologies are the best combination of skills to drive your organization to perfect performance.

Successful team leadership depends on the alignment of purpose, direction, and motivation.  

Imagine having a trained staff and improvement teams refining your business process every day for the rest of your career. “It’s a real vision”.

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