A cooperative team versus a collaborative team
With conventional cooperative teams, managers maybe necessary, but, team leaders are essential. So, if managers are not appropriate in the world of digital communication what about leaders? Surely, leaders can't be redundant? There would be no visionary, no driving force, nobody to take responsibility or to change the plans if things start to go wrong?
What about the role of the project leader or the entrepreneur? What is the best paradigm with which to view their functions? And the businessman in chapter 3 - with his range of indefinite options, who is actively interacting with others in the list serves, waiting for a business opportunity to emerge - how will he be able to exploit and exercise control over the situation when the right combination of factors come together? To answer all of these questions, let's look at the conventional idea of leadership and leaders, to see how this stacks up against the realities of the communication environment.
'Leader' is a word originating from the ancient word for a 'path' or 'road' - its original meaning is one who guides you on a journey. It implies the path setter, the one who knows the destination and the route to that destination and can arrange for an orderly and efficient passage. Translated into business speak, this means the one who has a clear idea of the objective. One who has a plan to reach that objective and can show others how to cooperate together to achieve a common goal.
A good team leader: should have clear realistic goals, a sense of purpose, effective communication skills. He or she should be able to gain mutual trust and support, be effective at resolving conflicts, able to use resources wisely, be able to create an atmosphere of openness, learn from mistakes, build on experience and ride out storms. Leadership is about personality and vision. It is an art.
For a team to achieve a task, it will need: a defined purpose - planning - briefing (explaining purpose and aims) - controls and monitoring - evaluation (review, evaluate, feedback) - group standards (invisible rules, discipline, subordination). These are the functional duties of a leader.
Leaders are responsible for the task of building a team; developing the individuals within the team so that they can give off their best. Leaders will have authority and command respect, set the standards, create the purpose, provide example and inspiration. They must have an ability to influence others, elicit enthusiasm and a sense of conscientiousness. They should be able to earn people's trust; exhibit qualities of warmth and fairness, yet be firm and positive.
Leaders should be able to respond to individuals yet show no special favours. They should be able to settle disputes and misunderstandings, resolve conflicts amongst team members. They should be constantly vigilant for signs of inefficiencies, slackness or non cooperation. They will thwart attempts at personal empire building, reprimand the holding back of information. They will recognise when individuals become frustrated or underused. They will be on the alert for incompetence and under motivation because this dilutes efficiency
Leadership is the sensitive use of power. The leader who wields this power is not only responsible for the efficient goal seeking functions of a team but also the less tangible needs of the individual team members.
Each individual within a team will need support, coaching and direction. They will each need to experience growth, personal development and a sense of accomplishment. They will need security, protection, a sense of belonging, social interaction and even affection. They will be looking for self respect, status, recognition. The fulfilment of all these needs is the responsibility of the leader.
Leaders must be able analyse the needs of a group to achieve the tasks at hand. They must have an awareness of individual skills and have the knowledge to leverage those skills to maximum advantage. They must be able to capitalise on team strengths and be able to make due allowance for weaknesses. Above all, leaders must create a sense of unity; provide a unified framework of communication so that team members can work efficiently and in harmony with each other.
Does that sound about right for a description of an ideal leader? Now let's see how such an ideal leader might fare in the uncertain and constantly changing environment of e-business where nobody can know all that is needed to be known - even the leader.