The Teams and Leadership framework

Introducing The Visionary, The Guardian, The Psychologist and The Director

To get the best possible results - in terms of effectiveness and well-being - the evidence tells us that every team, and every leader, must attend to four broad skill areas. We have grouped these together as four 'characters'.

Different circumstances will call for different skills, and every individual and team will have their own unique signature strengths - and potentially fatal flaws.

You can discover yours using the confidential reviews on this website. Your review will also suggest particular training exercises tailored to your profile.

TheVisionary The Visionary

The Visionary makes sure that vision and values are clear, and is inspiring and optimistic. Their behaviour wins others' commitment and trust

The Visionary leader inspires us with their picture of the future and their passion. They show us what is truly important. They make our dreams seem achievable and worth fighting for. Their optimism engages us and their conviction makes us resilient when times get tough.

They create focus and commitment - promoting the team’s hopes and aspirations and leading by example. Their commitment and example draw us together and draw us forward. Without vision our daily work becomes a chore. With vision we build the future together.

The visionary’s dark side is the manipulative spin doctor or demagogue, crafting spells to exploit our gullibility and profit from our efforts.

The GuardianThe Guardian

The Guardian gets everything set up for success. Strong negotiating skills are needed to handle stakeholders and allocate responsibilities fairly

Externally this is about building the right relationships with your stakeholders, and internally about getting your team aligned and set up for success.

The guardian's first function is to make sure the team is set up securely - by negotiating with stakeholders for the resources and facilities you need and handling the politics involved.

Stakeholders are all those groups who are not as immediately central to your success as your customers or other funders, but who can really help or hinder your pathway to success and you need to keep onside. Suppliers are an obvious example, health and safety regulators a less obvious one.

Political skill is often needed, too, in getting organized within the team - delegating, sorting roles and responsibilities and assigning tasks.

Too little focus on this area can leave you vulnerable to disruptions and unpleasant surprises that you should have planned for. Too much of the guardian mentality might lead to a risk-averse or over-politicized culture with constant re-organization and missed opportunities.

The PsychologistThe Psychologist

The Psychologist creates a can-do culture, handles disagreements constructively and builds great team spirit

Great team leaders want the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. For team members to feel confident enough to think of the team as well as, or even ahead of, their own priorities and successes.

In my own research, a leader’s abilities to develop teamwork and empower individuals are the best predictors of his or her overall leadership ratings by team members. Leaders need the Psychologist’s motivational ability to create a fulfilled or successful team.

Team dynamics can be complex, and the team's ability to work skilfully as a team leads to better team decision-making and better performance.

In a virtuous circle, good team dynamics also generates a can-do culture and empowered individual team members.

But the skilled Psychologist also needs to remember that real task achievements are the ultimate judgement on the team. The feelgood factor is very important but is not the main indicator of a team’s success.

The good news is that all of us can learn the skills that bring out the best in people, pull the team together and deliver results.

The DirectorThe Director

The Director knows it's results that count. Delivery and constant improvement mean a fulfilled team and happy customers

With all the fancy talk about leadership it is easy to forget the central leadership activity - managing performance by getting the right things done well.

Constant performance improvement involves an impressive combination of collecting the right hard (ie numbers) and soft (ie qualitative and intuitive) data, reviewing progress and making decisions based on systematic analyses.

Alongside these technical aspects are sophisticated social skills – managing individual performance, keeping the team motivated and getting the team culture right so that data is discussed fully and candidly and the best decisions get made.

The successful Director needs an accomplished mix of a scientist or engineer’s approach to analytical problem-solving and the diplomat’s ability to handle relationships.

This is even more true in the process of leading large scale change, where handling resistance to change and winning hearts and minds are just as important as taking the right technical decisions on future direction.

Without these skills a team is all promise and no delivery. But don’t become so obsessed about the day-to-day that you lose track of the inspirational big picture and the happiness of the people who make the results possible.