Would Your Team Go to War for You?

Recently, I was conducting 360 feedback interviews for a client. In describing him, one of his peers said, “He’s smart and very driven. His team knows how good he is, but they wouldn’t go to war for him…know what I mean?”

In fact, I did know what he meant. One of the most common causes of career derailment is the inability to lead a team. Often, a strong individual contributor can earn his or her way into a senior role based on the quality of work. Having formal authority over a group of people may force them to execute on your orders. However, the influence that accompanies real leadership is derived from much more than a big title.

Every great leader has several sources of power – personal traits and behaviors that inspire loyalty and commitment. This source of power can be in any or several of the following areas:

Vision – The ability to create and communicate a compelling vision of what the organization can become and how it can get there is one of the most essential characteristics of strong leadership.

Trust – Team members must trust the leader to make good decisions on behalf of the team and the organization. They also believe that the leader will have their back when they take appropriate risks.

Relationships – Great leaders develop strong relationships both within their organization and with outside stakeholders. An excellent reputation will certainly prove to be an admirable quality for a team leader.

Influence – Teams respect an impactful leader who is making a difference in the company and industry overall. Individual team members know that they will benefit from being associated with such a leader.

Knowledge and Expertise – Industry expertise can be a compelling source of authority with a team, particularly in technical industries.

What can you do if you believe that your team isn’t fully committed to following your lead?

First of all, become more self-aware. Ask yourself why your team members would want to follow you. What do you offer them besides formal authority and position? What are your individual and organizational strengths, particularly against the list above? Where might you need development?

Seek input from others. Consider asking for a 360-degree feedback assessment. Once you discover the gaps between your leadership capabilities and the leader you need to be for your team, you can begin to address those issues. You can also consider pursuing a leadership development program or engaging an executive coach.

As a leader, do you know if your team would go to war for you? What is the real source of your power in the organization?

Tracy L. Lawrence is a management consultant who works with business organizations and individuals on executive search, executive assessment, leadership coaching and organizational development.