Career Development

How To Become a Successful Team Leader

December 30, 2020

Developing strong leadership skills is beneficial for any position at every stage of your career. Even before reaching a managerial level, you can find opportunities to demonstrate your leadership capabilities within your company. One way to display leadership skills early in your career is to be a team leader.

Team leaders provide direction and guidance to team members as they work together toward a common goal. The team leader must monitor progress toward this goal and report to a supervisor, who may be in charge of managing several teams.

In this article, we discuss what a team leader is, how you can become a team leader and how acquiring this position can benefit you in your career.

What are the core responsibilities of a team leader?

A team leader helps to guide a team toward achieving a certain goal while managing and resolving technical and interpersonal roadblocks along the way. As a result, the role of a team leader often requires people to exercise organizational and people skills.

Here are several examples of duties a team leader may have:

Uniting their team

The team leader should ensure that all team members clearly understand their roles as it relates to others on the team. Everyone should know how they are expected to work together to achieve success.

Planning goals and milestones

The team leader should establish a plan for the team to reach their assigned goal by identifying and communicating responsibilities to team members. Often, team leaders are responsible for making a project schedule for the group.

Tracking and communicating progress

The team leader monitors the progress of team members and updates the team, supervisors and other stakeholders about the project’s status.

Supporting team members with feedback

Team leaders often act as peer mentors to their team by offering feedback, encouragement and strategies for improvement.

What is the difference between a team leader and a manager?

Team leaders and managers both solve problems, assign work and monitor progress. However, team leaders usually manage smaller teams, while managers can be responsible for entire departments and often supervise several team leaders. Unlike managers, team leaders are usually not responsible for employee discipline, performance reviews and wages. Team leaders typically have less experience than supervisors and may consider the role a chance to explore an interest in higher or mid-level management.

Related: How to Be a Good Manager

Characteristics of a team leader

A team leader should strive to be effective, accountable, empathetic and courageous. Acting as a team leader is a great opportunity to develop your character.

Some additional qualities of a successful team leader include:

Communicative

Team leaders should communicate information consistently and clearly to their team. A good team leader is also a skilled listener who can accept and act on feedback, suggestions and concerns from team members.

Confident

A good leader believes in the ability of their team to accomplish goals. This often improves the confidence, dedication and motivation of team members.

Fair

Rules and guidelines must be communicated clearly and applied consistently. Whether creating a schedule or assigning tasks, work to create an office environment that is equal and without favoritism.

Inspirational

A good team leader motivates individuals to do their best work to contribute to the goal, especially in times of stress or difficulty.

Flexible

Once the team’s plan is in place, the team leader must monitor progress, making changes along the way as needed.

Delegatory

A good team leader knows which parts of a project to handle and which tasks to delegate to specific team members. This practice helps the team meet goals and feel more empowered in their work.

How can a team leader motivate their team?

An effective leader should motivate and empower others to be their best. Every team will face setbacks or unexpected problems. A leader’s ability to encourage others during challenging times creates a successful team.

Here are a few strategies to help your team achieve its goals, even during difficult situations:

Lead by example

Display the attitudes and behaviors you want to see in your team members, and try to create a positive work culture. Read here for more about different leadership styles.

Act as a full member of the team

Show your commitment and inspire others by doing your share of work, such as cleaning the workspace, running errands or accepting weekend and night shifts.

Adhere to the rules

Team members should be able to trust that you will uphold rules established by your organization. Make sure that your team members are able to maintain a work-life balance.

Show appreciation

Recognition is a powerful tool. Whether you send a short email about the team’s weekly successes or host a monthly lunch to reward employees for meeting goals, acts of appreciation can be extremely effective.

Define core values

Identifying, communicating and upholding a team’s core values in line with those of the company can help people feel more inspired and motivated toward achieving certain goals.

How can I excel as a new team leader?

Often, new leaders encounter resistance when they start out. This skepticism is to be expected as a team may have developed an attachment to a former leader or may not yet trust the capability of their new organizer. Practicing dedication, professionalism and responsibility can support team development during the initial stages. Here is some advice for new leaders:

Communicate more than you think is necessary

Being transparent about your goals and plans to achieve them allows others to feel more confident in your leadership.

Explore your team’s career aspirations

Talk openly with each individual about their personal goals, strengths and areas for improvement. You may find a new way they can contribute to the team. Showing genuine interest in your team members’ goals will help build rapport.

Practice smart decision-making

When your goals are at risk, make changes. Making quick, informed decisions is a crucial leadership skill.

Ask questions

Asking questions demonstrates your willingness to learn. It also shows appreciation for the perspective of your team. This skill can help you be seen as flexible, respectful and open-minded.

Becoming a team leader requires a balance of several strategic and social skills. Like any soft or hard skill, leadership can be developed with time and practice.

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