Team members and leadership

By William Seidman I was recently asked this question: Must one aspire to lead in order to be a great member? One can’t be an excellent team member without at times being a leader and yes, one must at times be a leader to perform well. Think about it this way. Picture a person who only does what they are told to do. They never go beyond the minimum required to satisfy the directions given them. Would you call that a good team member or good performance? Most organizations would say that being an excellent team member means challenging others’ thinking, going beyond the immediate comfort zone to help others, and putting in the extra effort that takes the team beyond OK to greatness. When someone goes beyond their minimal goals, they start to exhibit leadership, and, in the larger scheme of performance, they MUST go beyond their minimal goals to perform well. So to be an excellent team member, they must at times be a leader, influencing others. Can someone actually be a leader in the senses described above without aspiring to be one? I guess it is possible, but being an excellent team member and striving for excellent performance are too hard to achieve without some sense of aspiration. People may not think about is as leadership – a lot of people think of leadership as only something executives do – but they are leaders and have to have that aspiration. Part of what fueled this thought was several people in a group with which we were working who felt strongly they didn’t have anything to learn from our leadership program. They already saw themselves as “leaders.” But they were terrible team members – everyone hated working with them – and by objective standards their performance was inferior. So, somewhat ironically, they had no aspirations to be leaders, when they actually needed it the most.  ]]>

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