Material Excerpts: Team Leadership


What Leaders Do - An Overview


This material is reproduced from the seminar, Team Leadership, Copyright © 2010, Donald F. Barkman, The Business Center, Oak Ridge, TN, All Rights Reserved. A single copy may be made for the reader's personal use. For additional information, please contact The Business Center. Thank you.



The prime directive is the one fundamental principle which guides all actions. What is the prime directive for leaders in participative team systems?  The prime directive for leaders is:


  To create conditions for success. 


Leaders create environments. They do this through the use of financial and physical resources, through policies, procedures, and organizational structures, and through personal behaviors. Leaders do not climb inside the brains of employees and take over their bodies. Leaders influence the actions of others. Every employee has a free will. Leaders help employees direct their behavior in a way supportive of the organization.


Leaders at all three levels of the organization can create conditions for success. Each level will make a different type of contribution, but the prime directive is a consistent theme at all levels.


How do leaders carry out the prime directive?


First level team leaders, mid level leaders, and top level leaders all work on two fundamental aspects of organizations: competency and willingness. 


Competence is the ability to do the right thing well.

Willingness is the desire to do the right thing well.


When leaders create conditions that build the competency of the organization and its members, and sustain and increase its desire to act productively, they are following the prime directive.


Each level of leadership carries out unique responsibilities associated with its role in the organization. To understand the function of leadership, however, we must also look at the role of the workforce directly involved with creating the product or delivering the service. In most cases, this is the work team or individual. (For convenience, we will stop making reference to both individuals and teams and refer to teams in the future.)


  • Work teams operate the work processes, maintain them in good order, make improvements to them, and produce the desired output.
  • First-level team leaders develop the competency and willingness of work teams to perform their tasks. They see that resources needed by the team are available. 
  •  Mid-level team leaders head up product lines, business units, or functional areas. They direct the business and promote excellence within their areas. They are also linchpins holding the efforts of the total organization together. They model cooperation and encourage it across all their departments.  
  • Top-level leaders assure the long term viability of the organization. They are often in primary contact with the external environment and continually scan it for opportunities and potential problems. They ensure that processes exist across the organization at all levels to create conditions for success.