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To which team does the leader truly belong? Is the home team, the team that matters most the team which the leader leads, or is it the team to which the leader belongs as a peer? How this question is answered may be a leading indicator of a leader’s succession potential.
A few weeks ago, a highly effective and experienced executive offered his perceptions about one of his direct reports. He shared with me that his direct report appears to have more loyalty to the team he leads, rather than to his team of peers. This is worth further discussion…
One might point out that both teams are highly important and one team should not take precedence over the other because they both play a vital role to the success of the enterprise. A viewpoint like this makes sense and seems to possess an “unarguable” quality to it. But this topic of discussion isn’t about the importance of teams or team members because we know they are important. This issue related to “home team” identification is an issue about the self-image of the leader or succession candidate, and how their allegiance influences leader performance.
Direct Report Team Identification
A leader establishing primary residence on this team may be driven by two differing motivations. The first motivation is the drive to be everybody’s advocate. To guide, support and protect. They act as go-between or interpreter between the direct reports themselves and the top of the organization. This type of direct report team-identified leader will sometimes find themselves trapped by the expectations of others, unable to smoothly lead change and other organizational initiatives without care-taking the concerns and feelings of those they lead. The second motivation of the direct report team-identified leader is to lead the team to impressive results demonstrating prowess, ownership and excellence. The “team that really matters” is the team for which the leader is responsible, causing this leader to periodically appear competitive and self-serving to their peers. Both motivations are fundamentally good but can become overused.
Peer Team Identification
Because the leader sees him/herself a primary resident on this team, they make sure they stay in alignment with the top leader of the organization and their peers. Intellectual property rights of ideas/recommendations are sincerely surrendered for the best use of the team. Collaboration is frequently demonstrated as the leader not only seeks to satisfy his/her individual needs and interests, but also the needs of others on the team. The peer team-identified leader manages their communication for the good and never shares their misgivings to others outside the team when they disagree with decisions. The peer team-identified leader recognizes the importance of “going lonely” at times when the peer team meeting has long since adjourned and they represent the lone presence in charge of leading a change initiative of questionable popularity.
How a leader identifies with their teams offers keen insight into their advancement readiness.
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