Team leaders live and operate in two worlds and how well they do this will determine their effectiveness. Team leaders who do not understand the two worlds they straddle usually get themselves into trouble so understanding the two worlds is critical to leading well.
World one is the team they belong to and where their primary loyalty lies. This is not the team they lead. It is the team they belong to. Many team leaders do not understand this principle: Their loyalty is not primarily to their own team but to the higher team they are on.
Let me illustrate. For many years I served as the leader of an international mission. But the senior team I belonged to was the senior team of the denomination. Thus my primary loyalty was to the team I was on and it was my responsibility to ensure that the team I led was always in alignment with the team I was on.
On that senior team my job was not to advocate for the organization I led but to represent the whole organization - its mission and not "my slice of the pie."
World two is the team that we lead. Every team has a unique mission that must exist in alignment with both the organizational mission as well as the other teams that make up the whole. That the team does this is the responsibility of the team leader. In this scenario, there is no place for politics, turf wars, silos or competition although this often exists and causes dysfunction within the organization.
Team leaders have the following responsibilities that impact both worlds.
- They must represent the ministry as a whole on the senior team they are on
- They must ensure that the team they lead is always in alignment with the organization's mission
- They cannot allow politics, turf wars, silos or competition to divide their team from the organization as a whole or from other teams
- The cannot engage in Leadership Default
This last point is critical. Many team leaders want to be seen as one of the team. It is easy when decisions are made at the organizational level for a team leader to blame those above them for decisions because they don't want to take responsibility for those decisions.
I call this Leadership Default because in blaming those above them, the team leader has introduced an us/them mentality to the organization and chosen to cause division between their team and the organization. This is a dysfunctional way to straddle the two worlds of a team leader.
Team leaders have responsibility to the team they lead and the team they are on. Which one comes first matters and how they navigate those two relationships brings either alignment or division.