Are You The Real Leader Of Your Team?

Are You The Real Leader Of Your Team?

Are You The Real Leader Of Your Team

By Mark Wager

The leader of a team is not necessarily the person who has been given the title of leader. Within every team there is the official leader and the hidden or unofficial leader and both play very important roles in influencing the team in subtly different ways. Every team has a Supervisor or a Manager, a person who has been formally appointed as the leader of the team. This formal leader has the responsibility for the team and has the power to assign duties and reward good performance as well as punishing poor behaviour. This is our traditional view of a team's leader yet if we have a closer look at every team, we see another leader, one that wasn't officially appointed as such and may not even be aware that they are a leader. Sounds familiar? So who is this hidden leader?

In order to identify your hidden leader you first need to know what leadership is and how it differs from management. Leadership is not a position, it's an attitude. Leadership is the ability to influence people.

There are many different ways to influence people that go beyond the typical management tools of rewarding and/or punishing your team. In fact some of the most successful leaders were never given a formal title or even asked to be a leader, what they received instead was the trust and belief of people who wanted to follow them. People follow Managers because they have to but they follow Leaders because they want to. It's natural to be influenced by people who are respected and admired and this can come in the form of expertise or their personal qualities. If someone has the answers to your questions and builds trust and respect, they can easily influence yours and the team's behaviours. This is because you want the same in yourself and it is also true when you see personal qualities that you admire such as honesty, integrity, honour, trustworthiness in others you will naturally move in that direction. You see these qualities in others and you are influenced to follow them regardless of their position.

When you as a Manager or official leader, see expertise and good personal values in a team member who is not the formally appointed leader then you have identified your hidden leader within the team and because the hidden leader may not be aware that they are in fact leading then this can cause issues for the organisation. To demonstrate, just imagine this scenario and it's one that I've seen many times. The Senior Manger or CEO gathers the team together to deliver some big news, most commonly a proposal to change the structure. After the news, the CEO leaves and the first thing the staff do is to turn to the team member who they respect, their hidden leader, and ask their their opinion, if they think it's a bad idea then that opinion is more influential than the CEOs opinion and therefore a team will have a poor attitude towards the change. This becomes a significant issue for companies. When I am asked to provide advice to companies that want to change the culture or structure, I always tell them the key to success is the identify the hidden leaders within the organisation and to convince them first.

Influence the influencers

The hidden leader's can be a power that can be used for the good of the team or to its detriment. It all depends on how the formal leader deals with the situation. For a leader to be effective they have to influence people yet for a leader to achieve high levels of success they need to influence the influencers. Identify these hidden leaders who have the power to influence others and treasure them. They are not your competitors but instead are the tools that are available to you to take your team to the next level. Treasure what they bring to the team, listen to their expertise and value their qualities and make them realise what impact their actions have on the team regardless of whether or not they want to influence others, the reality is that they do. While there has to be a final decision maker and that should be made by formal leader it doesn't prevent others contributing to the leadership that every successful team needs because the most successful teams do not just have one leader but a collection of leaders.

Leadership is a choice

Having a hidden leader within your team can be difficult for a leader to accept because you may think that they are not the real leader of the team but you need to remember that a job title doesn't make you a leader. What really makes you a leader is a choice. You need to decide to be a leader by becoming the kind of person that people believe and trust enough to follow you. If this becomes your focus then you will become the real leader of your team and when you evoke the real leader in you, it's not just followers who will follow you but other leaders as well.

Posted: Thursday 13 April 2017


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