Team leadershipNot everyone is good at it or looks forward to it, but working in teams and being an effective team leader is often necessary in today’s modern workplace or educational institution. Whether working as a manager or placed in an environment that relies on teamwork and team projects, you most likely will encounter a situation in which you will be in charge of effectively leading a team.

When you find yourself faced with a leadership situation, there are certain criteria that will allow you to better lead, communicate with, and motivate your team to succeed. It takes more than a few pep talks and well-placed pats on the back to become a great leader. Being a strong leader is not always easy, and is not always fun, and at times the responsibilities you are faced with can seem overwhelming, but if you work with your team and continuously try to improve your team’s efforts, you will find yourself growing more efficient and more effective as a team leader.

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Effective communication is one of the key ingredients to leading your team. Don’t just talk — listen, watch, ask questions, discuss things openly and try to get a feel for the best ways to communicate with your team members. Each team is different and how you communicate and interact with its members will depend heavily on the environment, workload, attitudes, and personalities of the individual members themselves. It is important to remember that a team leader can talk himself blue in the face, but unless he is willing to communicate openly, and more importantly, honestly with his team, as well as being willing to listen to the team’s input, his words will mean little.

Taking the initiative
You can’t always wait for you team to act. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where your team is operating slowly or ineffectively. The kinks and quirks of a group of people won’t always just work themselves out. If you do wait, you might end up doing damage to the group’s overall effectiveness and wasting valuable time, effort, and resources in the process. Sometimes it’s best to roll up your sleeves, jump in, and show your team how it’s done. Your willingness to put yourself out there and lead by example could be the spark that jumpstarts your team to start working together.

Motivating and appreciating
People are motivated by different factors and in different ways. Some people respond more to incentives, rewards, and bonuses, while with others, sometimes all it takes is a few words of appreciation for a job well done. This is where your ability to communicate effectively with your team will help you determine what works best for its particular members. Whether it is cash, prizes, food, words, extra time off, or whatever, it is rare that a group is motivated by exactly the same things. Therefore, you might have to use multiple reward systems or combine various motivational factors to meet your entire team’s needs. No matter how hard your team works and how motivated its members are, you will most likely have to remind them of goals, both short and long term, as well as the rewards they will receive when those goals are met.

Constantly re-evaluating
A team is like a constantly changing, evolving, growing, organism. As its individual parts (i.e. team members) grow, learn, develop, and change, so does the team dynamics as a whole. Being able to watch, evaluate, and re-evaluate your team’s structure, cohesiveness, effectiveness, and success, will help you determine whether your team is evolving as it should in order to meet and achieve new challenges and goals.

Removing ineffectiveness
This will be the hardest task in the list of most team leader’s responsibilities. It only takes one ineffective team member to destroy the success of the entire unit and the ability of the team to function properly as a whole. Even the most strenuous efforts on the part of a team leader might not be enough to produce results when it comes to a particular individual. Therefore, the best strategy is to be firm but fair. Let your team members know your expectations, treat them fairly and equitably, but also ensure that they understand the consequences of not being a team player, and that those consequences will be applied to every part of the team in a consistent fashion.

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