Team building 201: Exceptional team performance involves leadership from everyone
The writer

Team building 201: Exceptional team performance involves leadership from everyone

Teams matter. The famous African proverb highlights teamwork's transformative power: "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."


In 1965, Tuckman introduced the "Stages of Team Development" concept and offered insights to navigate the challenges teams face as they solve problems. 

Since then, we have learnt a lot about teams. Four decades later, Patrick Lencioni's "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” also pointed us to challenges we must avoid to achieve exceptional team performance.

About a decade ago, Google's research on team effectiveness, titled "Project Aristotle" highlighted the structure and conditions that generate top team performance.

Their insight is that top team performance will result if the leader creates the necessary systems and conditions.

Other studies show that individual personalities and team composition influence team success.

These theories encourage leaders to pay attention to how individuals like to work and relate to others.

Team management profiles and related surveys help us understand our team members better to work with them.

The reality is that the right combination of talent and proper structure can deliver outstanding results.

In all the studies on team performance, organisations have accepted that a team leader makes the team tick.

This scenario creates very high expectations and places an unusual burden on team leaders to rally the team to inspire performance.

When team leaders live up to expectations, the team succeeds, and if they fail, the team fails.

Our world of work is changing rapidly, with several teams scattered across the globe with different unique competencies and peculiarities.

Recent experiences of several global teams are opening up new and relevant insights for leaders and organisations.

For example, recognising the demanding schedule and heavy burden placed on global leaders inspired Huawei to adopt a rotating leadership at the highest level of the company. 

Another example is the work of Seth Godin, the marketing guru, in producing the Carbon Almanac.

The approach adopted offers new insights on how to get “volunteers, not conscripts” (and really, that's what all team members are), to contribute to excellent team performance.

Seth assembled a team of over 300 writers, scientists, thinkers and researchers who collaborated to produce an engaging and definitive resource to guide the global movement on climate change discussion in every household and organisation. 

The recent World Cup in Qatar also offers some insights. The challenge that led to Argentina and their talisman Messi coming short in previous editions became France's undoing this time.

Unfortunately, Mbappe's brilliance produced three goals in the World Cup final, but his team still lost.


When the stakes are very high, it's challenging for a team to rely on the inspiration and leadership of a single leader and achieve sustained performance.

Argentina had almost the same team at the Qatar World Cup in 2022. What was different? Many team members showed up as leaders in the group.

The cult of the leader is giving way to the leadership team, albeit very slowly, in many organisations. Organisations tend to achieve more when they have a superior bench of leaders rather than a genius with a thousand helpers.

Clarity of roles and structure, psychological safety, team diversity, and many others contribute to team performance. However, at the core, teams are made up of unique individuals.


And all team members can choose to exercise extraordinary leadership.

This leadership choice becomes the basis for exceptional performance.

Exceptional team performance involves leadership from each one on the team. Teams achieve accelerated sustained performance when all members show three outstanding leadership attributes.

All team members embrace their contributions

The challenges that teams face today are complex. Hence members cannot rely solely on the energy and passion of the conductor. Members recognise that they have a role to play no matter what it is.


They work with the orchestra conductor rather than relying solely on the conductor's vision and inspiration. Team members take ownership of their roles and strive to perform them to the best of their abilities.

They value and acknowledge the contributions of their colleagues, never viewing their own as superior. Studies have demonstrated that high-performing teams receive more frequent recognition from peers and managers.

All team members hold themselves accountable for top performance.

They accept that the buck stops with them rather than any leader. They will do whatever it takes to hold their lines, deliver on their assigned tasks, and support others to complete the project. That's the nature of accountability.

Team members share updates with the other team members on their progress and their challenges on the job.

They are open to other team members, holding them accountable for their actions. Hence, they openly seek feedback from all team members on improving their work. They accept that their colleagues can criticise their work and welcome their input. 

All team members are committed to professional development and well-being

They do not want to be the weakest link in the team. Hence, they do all they can to stay at the cutting edge of their practice and performance. They know they will let their team down if they do not prioritise their well-being.

Hence, they engage in acts that support them to show up with their best self to their teams every day.

They are also committed to others and look to those around them to support their well-being and professional development.

They always share hacks and tips that enable others to do their work well and support each other through difficult moments.

Having individuals who embrace their contribution, are accountable and committed to professional growth and development is an excellent beginning for every team. Every team member is capable of leading.

Team leadership is not for an individual. Let's go far by going together.
… of good cheer!

The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Program, and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory. The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. If you have an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to [email protected]. Until you read from us again, keep leading…..from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

Robert M. Bennin, Chief Learning Strategist at  TEMPLE Advisory

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...