Leadership and team management are two sides of the same coin. A leader cannot lead without managing a team - as simple as that! To my mind, there is no better indicator of leadership than this all-important trait. My own experience of leading large, diverse teams over the years and wide reading on the topic have led me to crystallize my learning into six important principles of managing successful teams.

aspects_of_leadership_quote1) Inclusiveness: This is the most important principle. Over the years, countless employees have told me that they love to feel important and valued. One of the most effective ways you as a manager can do this is to include them in decision-making and formative processes rather than just asking them to mindlessly execute leadership’s agreed upon strategy.

2) Customized approach:  Many leaders adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy. We need to appreciate the fact that each individual reacts differently to the same stimulus, given his or her unique emotional quotient (EQ). In fact, the same person’s reactions to similar situations can vary across a time period, given his or her emotional fluctuations. A successful way to manage this is to get to know each person, and figure out what his or her intrinsic motivators are.

3) Personal touch: I have seen many instances wherein people work together for years, without really getting to know one another personally. People come to work every day while also playing out their roles as parents, children, spouses, etc. When personal issues arise, a word of support from the leader could put the employee in the right frame of mind to momentarily leave their troubles behind and get on with the task at hand. You’ll only be able to offer this kind of support if you get to know your employees and open the line of communication.

4) Use data: Most of us love to share observations and feedback with our teams. Very often, the person at the receiving end is not able to relate to what is being shared without evidence of that behavior. In this context, the usage of data is critical. If you say something like “In the last three staff meetings on company strategy, I noticed that you were silent,” you will convey the point far more effectively than if you say “you need to make contributions beyond your role.” While it sounds extremely simple to practice, repeated feedback from employees in numerous surveys shows a high rate of leadership failure on this front.

5) Communication: This is one of the most under-rated aspects of team management, but it really is the bridge between the team and the leader. At a broad level, silence from the leader has the team wondering what he or she and the company are busy doing, leading to the oft-heard perceptions about lack of clarity on vision and strategy. It is extremely important for a leader to share his or her thoughts and his or her work activities on a regular basis through a blog, newsletter, staff meetings or conference calls. People in the team not to not only know what is going on, but how they can contribute as well, since they are the ones closest to the customer.

6) Tact: Human beings are hard-wired to receive messages which resonate on a particular wavelength. A great example here is what I use when I have to sit down with team members for appraisal and feedback: “So, what kind of feedback would you like to hear? What you wish to hear or what you need to hear?” There is only one answer to that question; and without exception, it has set the right context for me to share candid feedback without facing much resistance. Another example is when I ask team members to move from the tactical plan to the strategic plan: “Would you want to drive your job or let your job drive you?”

While there are several formulaic elements (giving credit where it is due, pitching the team in front and giving them visibility, praising in public while reprimanding in private, etc.) which help in the context of leadership, the above principles, which I have distilled from my experience of handling teams through several business situations (crisis, growth, turnaround, merger and transition) over the years, have proven to be extremely effective in the context of leadership and team management.


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