Are you a team player? In general, the prevailing notion of being a team player is a positive one. Every leader wants his or her team to be made up of team players. A non-team player jeopardises the effectiveness of the team and can potentially cause the whole team to fail.
Is a team player someone who would always go along with everything the team decides? Most of the time, we would say yes to that. Does it mean then that there is no room in a team for a team member to disagree and ask tough questions? Most team leaders will tell you of course there is room for constructive debate, disagreement and some degree of dispute but at the end of the day, when the team has made a decision, everyone should stand by it fully, wholeheartedly and even cheerfully. But we do have to realise that it is very important to have someone in the team who doesn’t always think the same way as the team. It provides good check and balance even though such a team member can make you feel sick in the stomach. I have had such a team member before, and I did feel sick in the stomach, but I valued his feedback and he was right on a number of occasions. This kind of team members can actually help us make better decisions! Why would you only want a team full of yes men and women?
The critical thing here is how the opposing views are discussed. It is important that we listen to each other attentively and respectfully. It is good to believe that everyone has something positive and helpful to bring to the table. Don’t write anyone off. After listening, it is a good practice to ask questions about what is being said to avoid misunderstanding. When we listen well, we earn the right to be heard. And when it is time for us to speak, they will listen attentively and respectfully too, and they will also ask questions to ensure that they have understood us perfectly. This way, we do justice to the issue at hand and the final decision of the team would usually be one that everyone can support wholeheartedly.
Team leaders must have a vision for the team and how the team should fulfil that vision. Yet at the same time, team leaders need to be patient and humble enough to listen to the ground and involve the team and people on the ground to be part of the decision-making process, not just get them to rubber stamp our vision and decision. Dictatorial leadership can produce results too but it will eventually break the team, hurt people and result in pride and arrogance in the team leader. On the other hand, while consultative leadership may appear to slow things down, the progress will be a strong and effective one. Like we often say, “slow and steady wins the race”.
A couple of questions the team leader should ask ourselves, “Do I want a personal victory or a team victory? Do I want to achieve personal success more than caring for the needs of people?” Our answer to these questions will show what kind of leader we are and whether we would leave behind just a good track record or a real legacy.