The Team Leader

The role of the Team Leader can be crucial to making the day run well and keeping the show on the road.  It’s also a potential source of confusion, frustration and can actually be an inhibitor to delivery if it’s not understood.

Team Leaders can also be known as Supervisors, Seniors and Coordinators.  Some organisations use this title for their first layer of management also, which can add to the fun.  So here’s how we distinguish between the Team Leader and the Manager:

Managers are accountable for the output of the team, and so have the authority to decide who will be in in the team, what the work of the team will be, they decide the formal recording of the performance review, and they can formally start the process of removing someone from the role.  If you have roles that have all of these authorities, then you have a managerial role.

The Team Leader role exists due to necessity, most commonly due to geography, shift work or the size of the team.  It does not need to be an automatic inclusion in every team, a night shift may have a team leader, the day may not.  The purpose of the role is to assist the frontline manager in carrying out their managerial role because circumstances do not allow the manager to always be present to add value themselves.  It is not a layer of management, the role exists as a higher level role within the frontline.

Think of the Team Leader as the Captain on the field.  They are there to direct play, help the team through a crisis, instruct, and if necessary pull their teammates up if they get out of line.  The crucial point is that the Captain is making sure that the Coach’s plan and expectations are put into action, not their own.  They are often a key input to what the Coach’s plan will be, but accountability for the results of the team rests with the Coach.

It’s worth checking how the Team Leader roles in your organisation work.  Every employee deserves clarity on who their Manager is, that person who ultimately assesses their effectiveness and makes the decisions.  And if circumstances require, they also deserve a capable Captain who can guide them around the field.  Making sure the two roles are not confused can go a long way toward lifting the effectiveness of all involved.

(Acknowledgement to the work of Elliott Jaques who provides the foundation for the above)

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

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