When we generally think of leaders, we think of individuals who provide vision and inspiration to their subordinates and make decisions regarding resource allocation of the organization’s limited resources. Such leaders may or may not interact with their subordinates on a regular basis and often have the flexibility to choose the leadership style whether it is autocratic, democratic, consultative, or participative. But being a leader in team doesn’t only result in limited options regarding leadership style but also requires the leaders to master several other skills usually associated with managers involved with daily operations. Team leaders do not only have to interact with all members of their teams but also have to make sure that each team member is aware of his/her specific responsibilities. Team leaders can also increase their effectiveness by learning about the personalities and cultural backgrounds of team members. Thus, team leaders can enjoy close relationship with subordinates that may not be possible for a conventional leader. Team leaders also have the advantage of better control and monitoring due to small number of subordinates under their supervision which means problems can be identified and dealt with relatively quickly.
I did a summer internship last summer in which I was responsible for recommending marketing strategies to improve pricing structure as well as client retention rate. I was part of a marketing team which included two interns from China. Due to my knowledge and communication skills, I emerged as the informal leader within the group. I soon realized that some of the team members started feeling that Chinese individuals were freeloading since they would rarely contribute ideas in team meetings. As I did research on Chinese culture, I learnt that Chinese people don’t always speak unless they have something worthwhile to contribute. In addition, they also prefer harmony during meetings. From then onwards, I would specifically ask Chinese interns about their opinions and encourage them to challenge other team members’ ideas. Gradually, Chinese interns became more comfortable in expressing themselves. This incident taught me that learning about team members’ background really helps team leaders in improving communication and the overall productivity of the teams. Team leaders should continuously monitor signs of poor working relationship among team members and tackle them on a priority basis. The performance of the teams depends a great deal upon the ability of team members to work with each other.