It takes cooperation and collaboration from every member of a team to achieve success.
However, there’s usually one person in any project that has a bigger impact on the team’s performance than others: the team leader. Responsible for guiding, motivating and aligning other staff members, effective team leaders can transform a business.
When employees have access to excellent leadership, they’re more likely to be motivated, engaged and productive in the workforce. Unfortunately, only around 48% of employees say they consider the leaders in their team to be “high quality”.
So, how do team leaders cultivate success? Today, we’re going to define the core skills of a team leader, their responsibilities and how they can boost their chances of delivering amazing results.
The Role of a Leader in a Team: What is a Team Leader?
The role of a team leader can be difficult to define at first. Team leaders come in a variety of different forms, from people responsible for guiding a group of staff members through a project, to supervisors and managers who work in a position of authority every day.
In general, team leaders are the people responsible for guiding a group of people through a specific activity, or initiative. They develop plans to direct their colleagues, offer inspiration and motivation when necessary, and help to ensure everyone is moving in the right direction.
Team leaders might take on a variety of responsibilities in their role, choosing how and when to delegate work, which metrics to monitor when evaluating performance and more.
Team Leader vs Manager: What’s the Difference?
One point worth noting is that while team managers and leaders have a lot of overlapping qualities, there are differences between the two terms. A team manager is someone with authority over other employees or colleagues. They have a higher level of power than most members of staff and generally operate on an executive level, as a “boss” or “supervisor”.
Team leaders, on the other hand, can also be managers and supervisors, but they don’t always need to hold a position of power. Anyone can step up and act as a leader in a team, provided they have the right level of experience, the correct skills and appropriate buy-in from other members of staff.
Common Team Leader Responsibilities
As mentioned above, a team leader’s responsibilities can vary depending on the situation. In general, they’re responsible for guiding, motivating and managing a team. However, the degree of authority or power they have over other staff members can vary.
Most team leaders are responsible for:
- Managing workflows: A team leader helps to manage the flow of work during a project. They define priorities that need to be addressed quickly, set deadlines for activities and delegate specific tasks to individuals with the right skill sets. They also monitor the performance of their teams, to ensure goals are met in a timely manner.
- Fostering collaboration: Team leaders help other members of staff to work together in a unified, collaborative fashion. They encourage regular communication between employees, both in an office and hybrid environment. They may also be responsible for resolving conflicts between staff members, strengthening employee bonds and helping colleagues to work more cohesively together.
- Communicating information: Team leaders consistently communicate openly, transparently and effectively with their team. They ensure every member of staff has access to the information they need to contribute to a project. Team leaders may also facilitate communication by arranging meetings and following up with staff.
- Coaching staff: In many cases, team leaders can act as coaches, mentors and advisors to their employees, helping team members to understand their strengths and weaknesses, overcome challenges and achieve their goals. They provide regular feedback to staff members to help push them towards success, and provide advice on how to improve results and achieve specific outcomes.
- Inspiring and motivating teams: Team leaders facilitate positive change and movement in the workplace, by constantly motivating and inspiring their teams. They give their employees a clear vision to work towards, set expectations for work quality and work on improving the confidence and engagement of their staff members.
The Crucial Skills of a Team Leader
While the talents and abilities of a team leader may differ on a technical front, there are various soft skills and characteristics which can determine how effective someone is in a leadership role. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a team leader with a positive impact on the workforce should focus on cultivating the following skills.
Any great team leader needs to know how to communicate. In other words, they need to be able to connect with employees using a variety of different communication methods and styles, to ensure every employee understands the role they’re playing in a project. Team leaders need to be transparent, clear and open in their communication, sharing regular updates whenever necessary.
They should also be able to communicate in a way that resonates with their colleagues, using tone of voice and body language effectively. A good team leader will be able to communicate just as effectively, regardless of whether they’re talking to a colleague in person, over a messaging app or through a video conferencing tool.
Goals are essential to any project, they give team members specific targets to work towards and unify employees around a shared vision or mission. A good team leader will be able to identify short-term and long-term goals for their colleagues, using SMART goal-setting tactics.
They’ll clarify the metrics that need to be monitored to determine whether staff members are actively moving towards their goals and provide feedback on the progress they’re making. A good team leader will work with their colleagues to ensure everyone is on the same page. They’ll also help to ensure deadlines are met in a timely fashion, by following up on status reports for example.
Team leaders need to be masters of organization, to ensure projects are delivered on time, and goals are met. They need to know how to manage workloads, ensuring that the right tasks are given to team members based on their specific skills and strengths. They also need to ensure that they’re not overloading any member of staff with too much work, to minimize the risk of burnout.
A good team leader should be able to prioritize tasks, based on their level of importance and urgency, to ensure that the most critical jobs are completed at the right times. They should also be experts in managing not just their own time, but the time of their employees. Great team leaders can help other staff members make the most of their productivity, by assisting them with the creation of to-do lists, time management matrixes and time-blocked schedules.
No matter how skilled the professionals in a team might be, there will always be problems team leaders need to overcome. They may need to figure out how to effectively align remote workers and in-office employees within a hybrid setting to ensure everyone feels included in the project. They might have to find ways of resolving conflicts between members of staff with different communication styles or work ethics.
Team leaders will also need to figure out how to adapt quickly to problems as they emerge during a project, like a change in scope or a technical issue. A good team leader will be able to think creatively and work collaboratively with other employees to find the best solution to each problem.
A great team leader isn’t just responsible for guiding a team, they’re also there to ensure every member of staff can work together as effectively as possible. A great team leader helps to cultivate bonds between team members, ensuring high levels of collaboration and cooperation between every member of staff. They help to promote inclusion and mutual respect, and focus on making everyone feel like an important part of the project.
A team leader can leverage a number of different strategies to help unify their team, such as hosting regular meetings where everyone can connect and get to know each other a little better. Some team leaders also use gamification techniques to inspire healthy competition.
Part of being able to effectively organize and manage a team is knowing how to distribute work among staff members based on their skills and abilities. The best team leaders don’t try to handle everything themselves, however they don’t just pass the work onto other members of staff either. They think carefully about how they delegate different tasks.
Great team leaders take the time to understand their team member’s strengths and weaknesses, so they can align each employee with the tasks most relevant to their skills. They also know how to distribute tasks among employees without micromanaging or being overbearing.
Mentoring and Coaching
Finally, a big part of a team leader’s role is to motivate, inspire, guide and generally develop the people they’re working with. This means many team leaders spend a significant amount of their time acting as coaches or mentors for other staff members. They provide guidance when employees need it, offer advice and instruction, and deliver regular feedback.
Team leaders can work with their employees on a one-to-one basis to help them understand their weaknesses, refine their strengths and overcome challenges. They often use a high degree of emotional intelligence to ensure that every employee feels supported and empowered.
How to Become a Better Team Leader
Becoming a better team leader starts with honing the skills mentioned above. If you demonstrate excellent communication, problem-solving and organization skills, you’re already on your way to being an effective leader for your colleagues.
However, the best team leaders also understand that there’s always room for growth. Here are some quick tips to improve your chances of being a better team leader:
- Utilize the right tools: Great team leaders access the tools and resources they need to empower their teams. For instance, they might use productivity apps to help with organizing work, or collaboration tools to ensure every employee can communicate effectively, both inside and outside of the office. Make sure you always have access to the right resources.
- Seek feedback: An effective team leader doesn’t just provide feedback; they cultivate it too. Gathering feedback from other members of staff can help any leader to figure out what they need to focus on to better motivate, inspire and guide their colleagues.
- Be collaborative: Team leaders might be responsible for directing a team, but they also listen to the insights and opinions of the colleagues they work with. Taking a collaborative approach to leadership can increase buy-in from other staff members and improve employee engagement. It also helps team leaders to come up with creative solutions to problems.
- Evaluate team dynamics: Pay attention to the way people work together in your team. At times, you may find that different communication styles and work ethics are causing conflict between your employees. If this is the case, you may need to think about ways you can improve employee bonds and mitigate issues.
- Use emotional intelligence: The best team leaders often have a high level of emotional intelligence. They know how to behave compassionately with employees and always listen to their staff. They also use empathy when providing feedback and never belittle or exclude members of their team.
Becoming a Fantastic Team Leader
The right leader can make or break the success of any team. As the people responsible for guiding other staff members, managing projects and maintaining high levels of engagement, leaders are often under immense pressure. However, when they learn how to leverage the right skills to their advantage, these professionals can cultivate excellent results for a business.
Remember, the best team leaders learn, grow and adapt over time. Commit to a growth mindset, and constantly search for new ways to improve your leadership strategy.
The right technology can also make it much easier to guide and motivate your team. Platforms like Brosix help to keep workforces connected with messaging features, video and file sharing capabilities.