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Leadership and Teamwork Skills Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Should the manager of the team participate in training, meetings and team building activities? It surprises me how often I hear this question. There seems to be confusion about how leadership and teamwork skills work together.

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This is not an either/or equation.

Some believe that participating in team activities will somehow compromise their authority or hierarchical position.  When they do participate, these managers (and, subsequently, the rest of the team) default to boss and subordinate roles.

That's not teamwork. At least not in the broadest sense. That's what happens every day in the workplace, and spending time on teambuilding activities that reinforce business as usual behaviors isn't a good investment.

Leadership involves the enablement of others. When it comes to leadership and teamwork skills, team leaders should consider ways they can draw from others and create opportunities for inclusion and participation.

Consider these benefits of abandoning hierarchical roles when it is time to build the skills needed for team effectiveness.

1. Leadership and teamwork skills combined make the team more effective.

If you are the team leader, you are limiting your team's effectiveness if you require them to wait for your lead before they try new things and get the ball rolling. The strongest teams can act autonomously even in the absence of the leader.

Leaders are more effective when they are less essential in the moment-to-moment dealings of the team.

To build a strong team, you may need to be on the sidelines more, giving others the opportunity to share the lead.

2. True leadership puts other people first. Leadership and teamwork skills both begin with considering the needs of others.

Whatever your position within the team, you can contribute best by understanding and working to meet the needs of others on your team.

You can't do this if your jockeying for position or protecting your own turf.

In team building sessions, I see this most obviously at the level of senior teams. In these groups, each member is accustomed to being in charge. It can be very difficult for some to set aside their authority, their ego, or their habits of being highly directive.

3. Both leadership and teamwork skills are essential for growth.

The growth of every member of the team Will be hindered by a lack of leadership or lack of teamwork. Conversely, every member of the team will experience more opportunities for development if there is strong leadership and if all are contributing to continually improve teamwork.

Growth inherently comes with opportunities to try new things, to contribute new ideas and to observe a variety of styles and approaches.

If team leaders over-manage teams, all of these growth opportunities are limited.

Leadership and teamwork skills are not mutually exclusive. Just the opposite. To build teamwork skills, leaders at every level must lead by making space for all members of the team to also lead.

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Next Steps for Boosting Team Effectiveness by building both your leadership and teamwork skills

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Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, the company that helps you build organizational strength by putting people first. Book Deb today to facilitate critical team meetings, to speak at your leadership or team events, to conduct MBTI workshops to improve team effectiveness, or to work with you as your executive coach. 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 2016 and has been recently updated. 

Topics: team-building, team effectiveness, connect2win, CONNECT2WIN Blog


Deb's new book is a behavioral blueprint for success. It shows that tactics of highly effective sellers are also those of highly effective leaders -- and team players.

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