Ten Characteristics of Great Team Leaders
For those of you that know me, you know nothing excites me more than coaching and leading teams. I love it. I find fulfillment in leading and developing highly efficient, excellent, and healthy teams more than most other things I do in business.
A few years ago, I took our entire Executive team and the team leads from Catalyst away for a two-day retreat. The goals were simple: learn more about each other. Learn about our unique wiring. Learn the DNA of our current team, and create energy around becoming great leaders.
I spent most of the time digging into the Right Path assessment of each leader and talking about how their unique wiring was perfect for parts or their roles. I also addressed how a few trait intensities need to be on their radar for potential struggles. One of the things I love about Right Path is that we can address some difficult personality characteristics in an unemotional way. It really is why I am such an evangelist for this tool.
However, prior to that time, I asked these leaders what they believe makes great team leaders. It did not take long for us to come up with a list of 21 qualities that would surface from the greatest team leaders we know.
I have narrowed it down to the top 10, which is still too many, but I can’t edit anymore. So I want to talk about each of these characteristics and the value that they bring to leading teams.
Before we start, I have one MAJOR precursor to this list. It was the point of the entire exercise, and 9.99 times out of 10 this is true with this exercise. If you look at this entire list of characteristics, less than 5-10% of the traits would be qualified as a “results–based” trait. In other words, almost all the great traits that are attractive and constitute great leadership have to do with how you lead PEOPLE. John Maxwell always says that leadership is influence. I would add that you influence people, not necessarily projects. So as we go through this list, I would love for you to think about where you have seen these play out in the leaders you have respected the most and how you can apply them to your leadership.
1. Leverage Influence for the Team
Great team leaders leverage their influence and power to promote and serve their teams. (Andy Stanley talks extensively about this.)
A team leader who creates a culture of approachability is a leader worth following.
3. Solid Grip on Reality
In Steve Jobs’ biography, the author uses a phrase that Steve had reality depravation. Leaders who are not in-tune with reality create teams that are unhealthy and frustrated.
Over and over again, leaders talk about and point to relational leaders as being more effective than results–first leaders. It doesn’t mean results do not matter because they clearly do. It’s how do you lead people to results. Emotional Intelligence is central to this conversation.
Let’s be honest, no one wants to be on a team that they have to guess which mood the leader is in or what the day is going to hold because of the inconsistencies of the team leader.
Rorke Denver talked recently about a Commander that gave their team one of the greatest leadership lessons ever while they were in the field. He simply said, “Calm is contagious.” So true.
7. Release Ownership/Delegate
Nothing shows the commitment of the team leader more than a leader who is willing to release ownership and delegate important tasks, projects, and relationships. It shows way more than just trust; it shows character and priority.
There is something attractive about leaders who just know who they are and operate with an extensive self–awareness. I’ve always said the quicker we can be proud of how God wired us, the quicker we will become the leader he wants us to be.
I’m pretty sure this requires no explanation, but integrity will always be at the top of the list for the greatest leaders in the world.
As much as I wish that all respect comes from relational investments over time with your team, I’ll be the first to admit that competency to achieve results is also crucial to this characteristic. You can’t lead well without a standard of excellence and a strong skill set for work.