• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

What is Team Leadership? – Part 1


Laborers working as a Team to harvest
Farming Viewed through the lens of Team Leadership

Teams Leadership comes in All Varieties


The hot sun beat down on the steep hillside where dozens of agricultural workers slowly worked their way up the rows, filling plastic buckets to the brim and then transferring them into large plastic tubs. Meanwhile, in the distance under the shade of a stand of trees, several children played with a caretaker as they watched their parents work.


“I’m probably breaking several labor laws,” says the farm owner (who prefers to remain anonymous). "But what am I supposed to do? The alternative is that all those kids stay back in town, unattended by parents, crowded into a few shabby mobile homes." We discussed a wide range of difficulties regarding labor laws, the politics of immigration reform, the economics of agriculture, as well as the simple human compassion required to take care of the people who work as laborers. His eyes lit up when the conversation turned to the topic of agricultural robots.

“I’m making some big investments in technology that no one has even heard of yet,” he says, smiling broadly. "Think of it; these same laborers could be safe at home in Honduras right now, manipulating machinery through virtual reality (VR) goggles and VR gloves.”


In his view, everybody wins. The farmer could get his crops harvested; the money he pays them would go directly to the communities where it would do the most good. There is even the potential to reduce the burden of illegal immigration that has polarized the nation.


However, the purpose of this vignette is not to explore the current status of agricultural robots, or addressing illegal immigration. Instead, it serves to illustrate a specific example of a successful team builder. The difficult nature of the problem, as well as the high stakes involved, are no stranger to the vineyard owner; "I've been doing this all my life," he says, "taking on challenges no one else can handle, and I'm damn good at it." His confidence is borne of experiences common to all people who successfully engage in team building projects.

Team-Based Structure is Important


Team leaders work as a member of the team, carrying out many of the same roles, but frequently with additional responsibilities of higher-level management. Studies of both face-to-face and virtual work groups have increasingly focused on team-based processes and outcomes as a way to make the organization more effective. According to Peter Northouse’s seminal work on the subject, some of the advantages of effective teams include:

  • Greater productivity

  • More effective use of resources

  • Better quality products and services

  • Greater innovation and creativity

If Northouse is correct in his view, then it should be possible to analyze the characteristics of innovative leaders as a means of communicating and teaching the fundamental principles.


References


Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage. ISBN-10: 1452203407, ISBN-13: 978-1452203409


Continue to What is Team Leadership - Part 2

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