Leading a team is not an easy task; that is if you want to lead effectively!
A leader has many responsibilities: setting direction, formulating strategies, planning, aligning stakeholders, motivating, being a spokesperson, being a change agent, developing team members, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t do all of them well; even a super talented person has his limit.
During my conversations with leaders, one leadership topic keeps showing up. Specifically, how a leader could create an environment that encourages learning.
It’s not as simple as just providing training for your team. I know of many leaders who’d gladly send their staff for training; even providing time and funding for them. While emphasising training is good, that alone would not create an environment that encourages learning.
It’s hard to have a good team. I’m not saying it’s rare; I’m saying it takes an effort to nurture and maintain one.
Some of us have been with teams where the leader is only interested in getting the job done; in which we’re mere tools for the leader to achieve his/her goals. Chances are, I would move on as soon as an opportunity comes along.
We are responsible for getting our team (or organisation) to the goals and making sure the team accomplishes its mission. Apart from our primary objectives, we also have secondary responsibilities, like taking care of and motivating our team, among others.
Each day, many things demand our attention: not only those we’re primarily responsible for but sometimes those we are not directly responsible for. With so many things to deal with, we tend to be very busy most of the time; though some leaders actually wear “busyness” as a badge of honour!
Leadership is not just about skills, it’s also about your mindset.
I learned about leadership, at least initially, mostly by observing leaders in real life and, sometimes, from novels, movies, or television shows. The qualities I observed resonated with me, and I told myself that I’d like to be an effective leader like those I have observed.
The problem, though, was that most of those leaders I sought to imitate often seemed perfect. Perhaps they were not actually perfect, but they do seem that way.
The word “Team” means different things to different people.
When I work with team leaders and their teams, I often encounter different notions of what the “team” really is. One team leader may use the word to refer generally to everyone who works under him, while another might refer to a specific group of people.
Even within a team, each member might have a different understanding of what the “team” is; this might even be different from the team leader’s understanding!
Getting a team to move towards fulfilling its goals involves numerous decisions.
But right from the get-go, there is one important decision that a leader needs to make. This decision will shape the leader and the team in a profound way. It will affect how he or she leads, how the team interact with the leader, the culture of the team, etc.
Your team’s (or organisation, church, and even personal) mission gives clarity to your direction, informs your strategies and, together with your purpose, forms the basis of all your critical decisions.
The mission statement spells out your mission so that stakeholders (the team leader, team members, partners, target audience, customers, etc.) knows what you do. For yourself and your team, it serves as a reminder to help you stay on course. For others, it helps to differentiate you from other teams or organisations.
As I work with teams during the past 20 years, I often come across mission statements that are either so vague that they don’t tell me anything useful, or are so generic that they could just as well be the mission statement of another team!
These vague or generic mission statements are practically useless.