Is a team improved without a leader?

Does a team always have to have a leader? I asked this question at recent team coaching workshop. The reaction from fellow participants was thoughtful if generally negative. Some said that the team would be rudderless. Others said all groups need leaders, how else would you get anything done?

This interesting article from the Drucker Foundation 2001 explores the impact when an orchestra – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – chose not to have a conductor.  Obviously in a team the conductor is the equivalent of the usual business leader, carrying the responsibility for output and performance on his or her broad shoulders so the experiment excited the interest of greats like Drucker. In the article, members of the orchestra observed that the results were surprising. Far from losing direction, turn over, engagement and performance all remained good in spite of the absence of the leadership role.

Further, in 2007  Wiki notes: March 2007, [that] Orpheus became one of the first winners of the Worldwide Award for the Most Democratic Workplaces sponsored by WorldBlu, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization specializing in organizational democracy.

Now in 2019 the leaderless orchestra is still going strong. Some argue that their music is better for not being beholden to the over-ruling decision-making of the conductor’s interpretation. You can make your own mind up with some of these clips of their performances on the BBC.

Would your team be better if it were a bit less led?

 

Open a conversation with this team tester

The high performance of teams is an art not a science. That said, like good art, teams combine elements that when done well can enable performance (see this post). Because teams are at the heart of every excellent business they have been studied, measured considered and explored. The following 14 points are a summary of many such investigations and may support the analysis of your team:

  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Identity as a team
  • Composed of the right balance of roles to get the job done
  • Made of skilled and effective individuals clear about their roles
  • Constructive and harmonious relationships within the team
  • Effective leadership
  • Individual learning and development of team members
  • Sound processes
  • Open to change and creative
  • Completion- seeing it through
  • Recognition for success
  • Good internal communications
  • Effective communication to other teams and stakeholders
  • Regular review of performance

How are you doing from 0-20 in each area?

Use the following grid mark with an X where you believe your team sits in each area. This can provide a great opening for a conversation about what GOOD or EVEN BETTER could look like!  Once you’re done ask: Could it be better?  Get in touch to discuss your ideas!

0-4 5-9 10-14 15-20
Unclear Clear vision
No identity Identity
Unbalanced role Balance of roles
Skills shortage Skilled
Disharmony Harmony
Ineffective leadership Effective leadership
Low L&D High L&D
Poor processes Sound processes
Closed to ideas Open and creative
Nothing gets finished On time completion
Un-recognised Recognised for success
Poor internal comms Effective internal comms
No-one knows what you do The work is understood outside the team
Never review/reflect Regularly review