Team leadership: How do I lead a team optimally?

Everyone thinks differently. What motivates one employee tends to pull the other down. Therefore, managers should show their flexible side when leading a team and make their leadership behavior dependent on the situation, the respective employee and the task to be mastered. That is the principle of situational leadership.

Distinction between internal / external communication in companies

Basically, there are four primary leadership styles :

  1. TellingIn this management style, the manager tells the employees what they should do and how they should do it. He assumes that employees are unable to act on their own initiative.
  2. SellingWith this style, there is more exchange between managers and employees. The leader “sells” their ideas and message to convince group members to support the approach.
  3. Participating
    In this approach, the leader gives little instruction and leaves the team to take a more active role in developing ideas and making decisions. This style is often perceived as too soft by employees because it leaves it up to them whether they do the job well or not.
  4. DelegatingThis style of team management is characterized by a rather unbureaucratic management approach. The team members make the decisions and take responsibility for processes. The leader has more of a coaching and moderating function.

While managers used to use the same leadership style for every employee in their management tasks, this is now different. Newer management theories such as the situational leadership approach assume that it is more effective to make leadership behavior dependent on the respective situation.

Internal and external communication accompany each other

To do this, however, managers need to know which style of team leadership is appropriate in which situation. A more “prescriptive” style based on the telling principle may be necessary, for example, at the start of a new project. In this phase, the individual team members do not yet have an overview in order to be able to work independently. You are still dependent on the instructions of the manager.

But that will change in the course of the project. After a few days or weeks, the individual team members usually have enough experience to control processes more independently. Now the manager can move on to a more delegating approach and at some point completely transfer responsibility.

Internal communication has two main functions

The manager can not only adapt their leadership style to the course of a project, but also to the needs of the individual employees. Some team members may be free thinkers and need fewer guidelines from the outset, while others may feel quite comfortable when they receive clear tasks from the manager throughout the entire project.

Everyone is different and needs different freedoms or guidelines. The better a manager can empathize with an employee and offer him the leadership style he needs, the better he will perform.

Each team has its own dynamic that can affect productivity. If managers give their employees the freedom to determine how they want to do their work, they can often stand out from their colleagues and achieve more success. In fact, self-directed teams are very productive because they are motivated to work. It is therefore important that leadership does not consist of micromaneuvering, but rather trusts the skills of the team and motivates them to the best of their ability if necessary

What is effective communication in business?

The situational leadership approach thus avoids a one-size-fits-all approach and, unlike previous management approaches, recognizes that there are many different ways of leading a team. To do this, managers must be able to take the perspective of their team members and spontaneously decide which approach is most effective at which point in time.

This is a complex matter, but one that can be learned in leadership training. In this, prospective or experienced managers learn, for example, that there are certain key indicators that have to be weighed against each other in order to decide on the right management style.

These indicators are:

  • The tasks to be done (the level of challenge)
  • The current situation (is it stable or is it changing?)
  • The profile of the respective team members (are they independent thinkers or do they prefer to work in detail with instructions from the team leader?)
  • The motivation of the employees in a team (are they internally motivated and therefore open to new challenges, or do they need external motivation?).

Managers need to use their experience to properly weigh all of these factors. That is why situational leadership requires a lot of self-confidence on the part of the manager. If someone takes on leadership responsibility for an existing team without knowing the individual members well, he will not be successful – no matter how good his theoretical knowledge may be,

In order to lead a team as effectively as possible, a manager must flexibly implement the direction of leadership and adapt his leadership style to each individual situation. The situational leadership approach provides a good guideline for this. However, it is not a “patent solution” that can be applied equally well in every situation. Managers must therefore receive specific training on how to apply this model at work.

3 key indicators for situational team leadership

# 1 Pay attention to the group dynamics in teams

Interpersonal factors such as group dynamics on a team play an important role in deciding which approach is best. A team that lacks efficiency and productivity is more likely to benefit from a style that relies on order, rules and clearly defined roles. A productive group of highly qualified people, on the other hand, benefits from a more democratic style that allows group members to work independently and participate in organizational decisions.

The most efficient teams are those in which the members have autonomy and can make decisions regardless of the leadership role and whether the team already has experience with comparable projects or whether they are confident enough to cope with this challenge themselves.

Effective communication is crucial here. Managers who rely too heavily on team-building measures run the risk of spending too much time creating emotional bonds between their team members – which can be counterproductive when everyone is already getting along well.

# 2 Consider the task

When choosing a leadership style, a manager should also take into account the task that is to be completed. Professional tasks can range from simple to complex. Therefore, the manager should have a clear idea of what exactly the task entails in order to determine whether your team needs clear guidelines or whether it can do the to-do’s independently. If a team has been successful on projects with similar needs in the past, the manager may want to give them more freedom.

Conversely, when new hires need training or the chemistry between team members is not right, managers should opt for a more direct approach.

An optimal leadership style must also take into account the respective work abilities of its team members to complete the task. For example, people with good social skills are likely to work well in a less structured, collaborative environment. In contrast, those on teams with technical competencies may need more guidance from their managers to be productive.

Situational leadership does not mean being authoritarian or democratic. It’s about finding the right thing

# 3 Take into account each team member’s mentality

Not only is it very important to pay attention to group dynamics in any team size, but you should also keep an eye on the preferences of each individual on your team at the same time. In addition, managers need to take into account the mentality and personality traits of each employee. In other words: Is the mentality of the individual suitable for doing a task independently and how willing is the willingness to do so?

There are people who need more motivation than others. They may be introverted and unconfident, or they may need more supervision to keep them going. It is important that managers understand the needs and adapt their leadership style accordingly. Every employee is different, so managers need to keep this in mind when planning projects. Each team member also reacts differently to feedback from team colleagues, such as praise and criticism.

Delegating a task to a team member who is willing but unable to cope with it alone is the guarantee of failure. The ability to assess the character of each colleague enables the manager to choose the best management approach to help employees achieve their goals.

What is effective communication in business?

The quality of teams and their teamwork, the degree of fulfillment of the tasks set and the methods used to bring about solutions depends to a large extent on the structure (team composition) and team development. Here are some tips on questions you can ask yourself and your team:

  1. What goals do you want to achieve with your team?
  2. What is the optimal team size for the given tasks?
  3. What is the motivation of the members?
  4. Are there any conflicts between members or are there other issues that could affect how they work together?
  5. How well do you know your team and its individual strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Are all members able to contribute according to their abilities?
  7. Do you have enough time for good planning and follow-up meetings as the team needs?
  8. What do you need to consider in order to get the best out of your employees?
  9. What are the right collaboration tools based on the team’s objective?


Situational leadership is a flexible form of Team leadership and demands a high level of adaptability from leaders. You need to be able to switch from one leadership style to another on an ad hoc basis to meet the changing needs of your organization and your people. This requires a lot of instinct, but it can be learned. How good that it fits perfectly for this special topic Leadership training gives.

Companies benefit from a team leader who is able to determine the best leadership style in a particular situation and to get the best out of their employees.

When employees feel that they are not being challenged enough by their managers, they lose interest or become demotivated. However, managers must also be careful not to increase the stress level of the employees too much at the same time. Employees can be overwhelmed when their managers are constantly pushing them to their limits.

As a manager of a company, it is important to find a balance between leading your people by your example and taking on tasks that others can do just as well for you.

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