Arguably much of society’s framework built upon teamwork. Within K-12 institutions student collaboration is included as vital parts of lesson plans and course curriculum. In colleges at the undergraduate and graduate level teamwork is encouraged through end of semester group projects. In the work world professional learning communities encourage best practices amongst staff and promote information exchange. As a result of this reliance on interpersonal productivity, team leaders and the practice of team leadership is necessary and evolving in a fast pace world where technology influences communication. Specifically, teams can be conceptualized as organizational groups comprised of members who are interdependent, sharing common goals and coordinating their activities to accomplish personal and team goals (Northouse, 2016).
Teamwork then alludes to the lateral-heterarchial decision making processes and actions that govern this group dynamic (Aime, Humphrey DeRue, & Paul, 2014). This is one of the main features of team leadership. Lateral decision making emphasizes the importance
Much like transformational leadership or path-goal theory where leadership results play a central role. Effective team leadership facilitates team success and helps teams to avoid team failure (Stewart & Manz, 1995). Team leadership governed by heterarchial premises benefits from faster solutions to complex organizational problems, less conflict, more trust and increased group cohesion (Bergman et al., 2012).
This approach to leadership broadens my understanding of leadership theory through the many parallels that appear to exist among leadership models. For example, lateral decision making may share certain qualities with participative leadership style qualities reminiscent of path-goal theory. Both approaches incorporate member input as a means of making decisions. Notably, Nadler (1998) suggests that performance and development play crucial roles in the effectiveness of a team. The importance of performance in leadership evaluation is consistent within the transformative, path-goal, situational and adaptive schools of theory. However, given the importance of team member cohesiveness, effective team leadership may in fact share similarities with leader member exchange theory. Both approaches stress the importance of a collaborative climate and having the right people (LMX: in-group) committed to achieving organizational goals.
The Hill Model for Team Leadership provides a structural framework for understanding the decision and implementation processes involved within team leadership. It underscores an approach to leadership where leaders are facilitators of team effectiveness. This ideology of facilitation and not obtrusive leadership shares some features with Carl Rogers’ approach to teaching where the teacher is seen as a facilitator of learning (Rogers, 1969). The flexibility required by team leadership is similar to the transformational and situational approaches since leaders adapt their leadership strategies to the needs of followers and follower circumstances. Leaders who are able to successfully act within this capacity display what is known as requisite variety (Drecksel, 1991). This idea is important because it suggests that leaders are able to diagnose team problems and are able to implement necessary problem solving strategies unique to their present challenges.
Work teams have become more prevalent in today’s organizations for many reasons. Some of these reasons include effects of globalization, increasing complexity or organizational problems and a move to a more horizontal/lateral form of leadership within companies (Northouse, 2016). The evolution of communication through technology has brought about globalization. This evolution can be thought of as being mobilized by communication, and the ease in accessibility of information through the internet. Globailization results in communicative consistency, bridging cultural gaps and knowledge sharing. As technology evolves at an increasing rate so too do the problems associated with learning, implementing new organizational frameworks. It is important that organizations utilize team leadership so that these new problems can be managed and addressed quickly (Northouse, 2016).
Lateral decision making is essentially the opposite of vertical, top-down decision making. Lateral decision making is what has resulted from the flattening of organizational structures through the use of team related frameworks, technology, increased communication and shared leadership. This feature of sound team leadership involves power and decision making responsibilities being shared at all levels of the organization (team). Higher ranking team members do not monopolize the decision making process, instead it is more democratic. This can result in increased organizational efficiency and commitment amongst team members. This is important because it may be difficult and unlikely that top level members may have the same level of technical expertise as lower level team members. Each team member brings with them unique strengths which may make them more suitable for understanding organizational challenges specific to their area of expertise. This method of leadership is preferable to vertical leadership when teamwork and multiple input is necessary in order for organizational goals to be met. In other words, this type of decision making is preferable when organizational culture and goals require legitimate need for collaborative decision making. On the other hand, it may be ill-advised to implement such an approach to leadership if the organizational culture supports top-down leadership.
Aime, F., Humphrey, S., DeRue, D. S., & Paul, J. B. (2014). The riddle of heterarchy: Power
transitions in cross-functional teams. Academy of Management Journal, 57(2), 327.
Bergman, J. Z., Rentsch, J. R., Small, E. E., Davenport, S. W., & Bergman, S. M. (2012). The
shared leadership process in decision-making teams. The Journal of Social
Psychology, 152(1), 17-42. doi:10.1080/00224545.2010.538763
Drecksel, G. L. (1991). Leadership research: Some issues. Communication Yearbook, 14, 535-
Nadler, D. A. (1998). Executive team effectiveness: Teamwork effectiveness: Teamwork at the
top. In D. A. Nadler & J. L. Spencer (Eds.), Executive teams (pp. 21-39). San Francisco:
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE
Rogers, C. R. (1969). Freedom to learn: A view of what education might become.
Stewart, G. L., & Manz, C. C. (1995). Leadership for self-managing work teams: A typology and
integrative model. Human Relations. 48(7). 747-770.