- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
What is Team Leadership? – Part 3
Practical Advice to Transform your Organization
It has become a truism in leadership circles that all firms must innovate if they are to survive. Winning through innovation, by Michael Tushman and Charles O’Reilly III provides motivation to get started. Who Moved my Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson councils against the fear of change. If it Ain’t Broke, Break It, by Robert Kreigel, and Lois Patler exhorts the reader to the inevitability of embracing change or falling behind the competition. There are many other similar exhortations in this milieu.
But is all this advice really practical? Team building and change can be nasty double-edged swords. Pfeffer and Sutton caution that “when companies try something new, it usually fails.” Herein lies the true nature of team building; it is often difficult, messy, prone to failure, and potentially damaging to your organization and personal well-being. However, these authors refuse to provide an excuse to quit; “Despite all these costs, risks, and horror stories, refusing to change isn’t the right answer either.”
The impulse that makes the farmer move forward boldly to pursue his vision is not an inborn "character trait" that leads a great person to become an innovative leader; instead, they are a set of characteristic behaviors that are shared by everyone who dares to build and lead teams.
Conversation with the Team Leader’s Wife
People with similar backgrounds and experiences often work on similar ideas, usually while thinking that their ideas are unique. The farmer's wife would agree with this perspective. “I’ve been right beside him every step of the way,” she explains as they talk about their history. Together they form the nucleus of an team that includes their foreman, employees, influential city members, and many others.
Communicating the vision is crucial. "You've got to get the whole town involved," she says, "and after a while, your idea becomes their idea." Her confidence in the team building process is just as fierce as her husband's. Farming together over 50 years, they have gained and lost fortunes while developing marginal cropland, cultivating distinct varieties of grapes and other crops, purchased dilapidated buildings in run-down farm towns, and creating a social oasis that hosts large annual celebrations and draws celebrities from all over the world.
She agrees that the process of team building always requires similar leadership characteristics, "But they really don't teach that in school," she says. Her best advice is "to just start small; you'll be amazed at what can be achieved!” If you dare to be a team builder yourself, you must start by selecting a project and jumping in. Knowing about the universal characteristics of team leaders may help firm your resolve for the process, and will help guide you on what may become a remarkable journey.