Leadership roles and stages of team development

The formal leader of a team is usually appointed or elected. Informal leaders, on the other hand, tend to emerge gradually as group members interact. The man or woman who speaks up more than the others, who offers more and better suggestions than anyone else, or who gives direction to the group’s activities usually becomes the informal leader. This occurs not just in informal groups, but even in formal groups, where such a self confident assertive individual ay develop into a rival of the formally chosen leader thereby weakening the leader’s hold on team members.

At W L Gore and Associates, the value of team leadership is emphasized, but not at the expense of individual employee freedom. We as leaders asserted founder Wilbert L Gore can unleash much more of this inherent creativity and productivity by eliminating the authoritarian aspect of our organizations and depending on commitment and natural leadership as the controlling forces. All employees thus are referred to as “associates,” whether managers, employees, staff, or workers. And, under the umbrella of the teamwork philosophy, Gore associates enjoy virtually unchecked creative power. If you demonstrate ability, others give you the opportunity to expand, noted Arthur Punchard, the UK fabric plant’s leader, and you can change roles quite dramatically across disciplines. Such flexibility and teamwork have enabled the company to achieve worldwide sales in the neighborhood of $950 million.

Stages of team Development:

More than two decades ago, B W Tuckman suggested that small groups move through five stages as they develop. Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning.

Forming: During the initial stage, the group forms and learns what sort of behavior is acceptable to the group. By exploring what does and does not work, the group sets implicit and explicit ground rules that cover the completion of specific tasks as well as general group dynamics. By and large, this stage is a period of both orientation and acclimation.

Storming: As group members become more comfortable with one another, they may oppose the formation of a group structure as they begin to assert their individual personalities. Members often become hostile and even fight ground rules set during the forming stage.

Norming: At this time, the conflicts that arose in the previous stage are addressed and hopefully resolved. Group unity emerges as members establish common goals, norms, and ground rules. The group as a whole participates, not merely a few vocal members. Members begin to voice personal opinions and develop close relationships.

Performing: Now that structural issues have been resolved, the group begins to operate as a unit. The structure of the group now supports and eases group dynamics and performance. The structure becomes a tool for the group’s use instead of an issue to be fought over. Members can redirect their efforts from the development of the group to using the group’s structure to complete the tasks at hand.

Adjourning: Finally, for temporary groups such as task forces, this is the time when the group wraps up activities. With disbandment in mind, the group’s focus shifts from high task performance to closure. The attitude of members varies from excitement to depression.

The quality of leader member relations is the most important influence on the manager’s power and effectiveness. If the manager gets well with the rest of the group, if group members respect the manager for reasons of personality character, or ability, then the manager might not have to rely on formal rank or authority. On the other hand, a manager who is disliked or distrusted may be less able to lead informally and could have to rely on directives to accomplish group tasks.

All groups need not adhere strictly to such a framework, but that, in many cases, the framework can explain why groups experience difficulty. For example, groups that try to perform without storming and norming will often find short lived success.