How to elect a great team leader

By Adam Blanch

Electing team leaders establishes the holy grail of effective leadership - two-way accountability.

If you are talking about electing rather than just appointing your team leaders, then you are already more than halfway to getting a great team going. Electing team leaders establishes the holy grail of effective leadership - two-way accountability. A team that gives all its members power over their work environment and direction typically engages the best from those people, whereas a team structure that disempowers the majority of its members is a shortcut to low productivity. When looking at electing team members, there are two things to consider:

1. What is a great team leader?

This is someone who needs a broad range of skills: What, KPIs

  • First, they should be technically competent in their area of responsibility. That doesn't mean they have to be the expert in everything, but they do need to know enough to understand what all the members of their team are doing. Much like a conductor who can't play every musical instrument, but needs to understand them all.
  • Second, they need to be good communicators - people who know how to praise, reprimand, communicate a vision, listen to others, take feedback and motivate.
  • Third, they need to be secure in themselves. Great leadership is all about giving appropriate levels of power and responsibility to others, and a leader can't do that if they are trying to 'feather your own nest' when it comes to status and recognition. When every team member feels valued, rewarded and recognised for what they do it will yield absolute gold in terms of morale, dedication, creativity and productivity.
  • Finally, they must be willing to empower others to become decision makers in their own field of expertise. There's nothing worse than a micromanaging team leader who won't trust their team.

2. The process of electing a leader

The danger with a team leader election is that it turns into a popularity contest. You can avoid this by establishing a strong process by which the election is managed. Get each team member to anonymously rate the candidates against specific key performance indicators (KPIs), including those listed above. Once done, tally the scores and present the winning candidate to the group within a consensus process.

Consensus is the idea that every person must be willing to 'live with' the selection, even if they do not agree with it. If a member of the group is not willing, they must express their concerns, which are addressed by the candidate and the group until consensus has been reached. Consensus can look like a conditional agreement whereby the group gives the candidate a set of probationary KPIs to be reviewed in a specific time frame.

Are your teams empowered, or only your team leaders?


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