No, Team Leaders Should Not Behave Differently

Do team leaders get to act differently just because they’re team leaders? Nope. One of the things you should remember is that your team will pay more attention to what you do than what you say.

Remember when you were growing up and your Mom said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That is a death trap for a team leader. If you manage your team using the “as I say” approach, you will soon find yourself with a dysfunctional team that’s low in motivation and morale. Requiring employees to behave differently than what you demonstrate is like asking them to row upstream without a paddle. It just won’t work.

You can’t expect teamwork from your team if:

  • You spend your day building walls between you and your peers.
  • You keep secrets that would help others in the company.
  • You make it a point to talk negatively about the rest of the organization.
  • You only communicate on a “need to know” basis with select team members.
  • You foster unhealthy competition between team members.

These type of behaviors undermine the success of the organization and often go all the way to the top. Leading with ulterior motives in mind will backfire sooner or later. Creating silos and unhealthy competition within or among teams will eventually break a company down — no matter how good the people are.

Always remember that no matter what you are doing, someone is watching. Ask yourself how you would feel if you observed your behavior in your company’s leadership team. And never lose sight of the fact that if there is no company, there is no team. Your goal is to help your company be successful.

Here are some actions you can take that will make you proud to say you’re a team leader.

  • Communicate openly, often and with your peers and team
  • Collaborate with others on issue solutions
  • Establish a method for cross-functional interaction with other teams when possible

Does your organization promote do as I say or do as I do? The next time you hear someone say, “They don’t work as a team,” or “I don’t understand why they don’t communicate with each other,” examine the leadership team’s behavior first.

What do you have to add?


Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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