(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are in bold.)
Furthermore, leadership is shared in high-performance teams. The formal leadership role remains, but is mostly ceremonial or for the benefit of outsiders.
The designated leader defines the destination. On the journey, whoever knows that part of the journey best, takes on leadership and the designated leader and the team empower the situational leadership.
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When combined, the intense commitments to one another and their mutual cause plus their shared leadership and interchangeable skills make high-performance teams entirely self-sufficient. They move ahead by their own rules. Rejection does not get in their way. Nor does organizational hostility or indifference, limited resources, insufficient compensation, or, as we saw in Intermodal, even “freezing weather” stop these powerful teams.
When everyone in the team has clarity of the same goal, and commitment to the same success, they find the necessary, and even new, competencies and create the resources. Failure does not make anyone a loser, because no one's commitment is in question.
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They achieve beyond any measure of reasonableness, and they have fun doing it.
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People cannot be made to have fun. Rather, in high-performance teams, like so much else, fun seems to be a byproduct of, and an ingredient in, the team’s sense of commitment to each other and performance.
A 'natural' team almost often delivers performances beyond their own initial expectations and the expectations of their 'client' - internal or external - even when dealing with severe time constraints, perceived competency constraints, exacting standards of discipline, competition and even failure. And underlying it all there is a sense of satisfaction, and even fun! For a good mountaineering team, the higher and tougher the mountain, the greater the celebration.
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Most team leaders must develop skills after they take the job. Those who succeed have an attitude that they do not need to make all key decisions nor assign all key jobs. Effective team leaders realize they neither know all the answers, nor can they succeed without the other members of the team.
Define the destination, don't define the journey. There are bound to be others who know some parts of the journey better than you. Your job is to empower these people to lead as you go along towards a collective destination.