Leadership or Teamwork?

This post is about leadership and teamwork in all situations and is relevant even if you do not consider yourself part of  a team or to be a leader.

In my Authentic Leadership workshops I use a very simple definition of leadership. “Leaders are those that others choose to follow.”

However I hope we aspire to more than ordinary leadership, I hope we aspire to great leadership.  We might define great leadership as:  “enabling all those around you to do their best in pursuit of a common objective.”

If this is the case, what is the difference between great teamwork and great leadership?  It would be easy to argue precisely the same definition applies both to great teamwork and to great leadership.

Perhaps this is the point.  Perhaps a great leader is simply a great team player, who lifts all of their team to higher levels of performance than they previously knew, and crucially this is a role that all team members can play, not just an appointed leader.  Maybe the leader is the one who takes the greatest responsibility for defining the common objective of the team and holding the whole team in alignment to that objective.

Equally leadership and teamwork is not just a role for work or for a formal and lasting team, but for all situations.  Teams can form, exist and disband in a dizzying swirl in our lives, in a messy overlapping, constantly evolving way.  We can think of our family as a long lasting team, where we all support each other.  We can also create mini momentary teams, when we ally ourselves with anyone – a shop assistant, call centre operator etc.

We can define common objectives for a conversation,for our family or for a friendship. The crucial thing is that instead of having our own agenda and seeing others as opponents to be beaten, we create a shared agenda and see others as allies.  As soon as we do that we shift from competitors to team mates and create real potential.

The three steps to a shared agenda are:

1 – Be open about what you want from a given situation (you will need to know and be able to communicate this).

2 – Discover what the other parties want from the situation, (you could try asking them).

3 – Take the individual objectives to a higher level to articulate the share objective.

This can happen in a moment when you form a mini team with someone you have never met, or can be a formal process in the founding of a more lasting team.  Without this kind of process there will always be different and usually competing agendas pulling individuals in different directions (including you).

A friend of mine sent me this brilliant article after last weeks blog and posted it to the comments.  In case you did not get to see it, it is well worth the read (and doing the empathy test too).  In it Simon Baron-Cohen observes that a lack of love in our lives, particularly in childhood, reduces the physical size of the areas of the brain associated with empathy.  Conversely an abundance of love and care will lead to enhanced empathy.

The best leaders I have ever worked with were over 64 in the scale used on the test. Their leadership is defined by their need to care for their team members and their consequent ability to make everyone feel like they matter and therefore get the best out of them.

The conventional response to this might be to ask – “what happens when someone underperforms or is disruptive?  How does someone so empathetic and “soft” deal with the hard stuff?  The answer is simple, though rarely evidenced in most situations.  The great leaders concern for the team as a whole, means that they are just as likely as the “hard” leader to be intolerant any behaviour that compromises the esprit de corps.

Just because the great leader is kind and caring does not mean that they are lazy or conflict averse.  They will just choose to deal with disruption with care and compassion, looking for the cause of the problem and seeking to heal it.  If alignment cannot be found the great leader will find a way for the parties to diverge, such that those departing remain ambassadors for the team and the organisation.

In response to my recent “Magic Monday” survey I am now also offering to train personal coaches and business coaches and trainers in my unique techniques, I have also set up “Authentic Tube” to share inspiring videos – please send me your recommendations and I will add them to the channel.  Subscribe to the channel to get updates on new videos added.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts


About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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2 Responses to Leadership or Teamwork?

  1. Kate Bacon says:

    “We can also create mini momentary teams, when we ally ourselves with anyone – a shop assistant, call centre operator etc.”

    I love this Neil – what a difference it makes when we work together instead of arrogantly thinking we are right – the world becomes a much kinder place.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Kate x

  2. Phoebe says:

    Very well said Neil, totally agree with the idea and motion of teamwork. The success of leadership is based on the followers he/she turns into leaders. In so doing he has imparted not just his team but a whole generation and the next. That inevitably makes him indispensable, and of great value. A leader with a sense of great value for those being lead is in all counts worth having.

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