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Anyone Can Be a Leader

High-performing teams can leave you in absolute awe, questioning if what you saw had
really just happened. Take, for example, the Golden State Warriors. They are currently 20-0 and
amidst the best start to a season in NBA history. Their accomplishments are regularly the talk of
the town the day after one of their extraordinary games, leaving people wondering how in the
world they keep pulling it off (even without their head coach). That type of magic and success is
what every team setting out to achieve a goal aspires to. As stated by Alex Pentland in The New
Science of Building Great Teams (2012): Any company, no matter how large, has the
potential to achieve Firms now can obtain the tools and data they need to accurately
dissect and engineer high performance. (p. 63). However, in order to achieve anything it is
absolutely crucial to research what exactly goes into creating an effective, high performance
team. Upon doing this, our group formed a model for successful teams comprised of several
levels. At the lowest level of our model lies personal or individual accountability, consisting of
three sub-levels (attention to detail, motivational attitude, and dependability), essentially
evaluating a persons level of accountability to the team. This personal accountability acts a
bridge to the next level in our model, tying into leadership. Leadership, along with effective
communication and proper planning, are the core components responsible for leading to high
performing teams with the ability to complete their goals. This paper will attempt to explain and
support the model we created, lending credibility to its formation.
To begin explaining how a team can operate at a highly effective level, it is absolutely
pivotal to stress that teams are comprised of individuals that by themselves cannot achieve what
they can as a collective entity. Laird Mealiea and Ramon Baltazar write in A Strategic Guide for

Building Effective Teams (2005), Behavioral scientists argue that the success of teambuilding efforts is a function of the number of desirable team characteristics that can be
built into a work environment (p. 142) promoting that the success of a team is largely
dependent on the ability (or lack of) to incorporate positive characteristics of individuals into a
team environment. At this point, as a group we decided it is important to identify which
characteristics specifically translate to this success. Upon discussion and reflection on past
successful teams, we were able to come up with three core attributes that tie into an individuals
accountability that directly translate to success. Those characteristics include ones attention to
detail, the willingness to participate and work, and lastly, the outright dependability of a person
when it comes to pulling their own weight. In The New Science of Building Great Teams (2012),
Alex Pentland writes about evaluating the success of teams and with remarkable consistency,
the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful
teams. (p. 63). Each of these separate characteristics is individually essential to the overall
success of the team, creating essential communication and positive individual contributions. Also
crucial to the well-being of a team is what is communicated to be expected of them. In Mealiea
and Baltazars A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams (2005), the duo wrote, it is
critical that the managers behavioral expectations are clearly communicated to group
members (p. 155) communicating that team members should know exactly what is expected of
them. Being willing and dependable doesnt necessarily translate to the high quality of work that
comes with superior levels of attention to detail. The same can be said for the other traits; even if
you produce high quality work and are excited to do it, if you lack dependability, the team
suffers. You can also be able to produce this high quality work, be generally dependable, but lack
the motivation or willingness to do the work, and yet again the team suffers. For those reasons,

the accountability of each team member is essential for the success of the team. After all, as
stated in Lisa Daniels and Charles Davis What Makes High-Performance Teams Excel (2009),
Every member of a high-performance team possesses unique knowledge (p. 41), but it is
up to each member to be accountable and bring that knowledge forward. When these unique
traits are brought forth, it is possible for each member of a group to become a leader, positively
contributing to the overall goal of a team. This displays the overall dependability of a team, and
when a team is able to operate at this level, as covered in A Strategic Guide for Building
Effective Teams (2005), if not achieving results, it is a groups responsibility to identify
positive contributions and remove deficiencies (Mealiea & Baltazar, p. 142).
As suggested in The New Science of Building Great Teams (2012) by Alex Pentland,
effective communication is not a newly desired team trait: If we look at our evolutionary
history, we can see that language is a relatively recent development and was most likely
layered upon older signals that communicated dominance, interest, and emotions among
humans. Today these ancient patterns of communication still shape how we make decisions
and coordinate work among ourselves. (p. 62). Whether gathered around a campfire or a
board room table, teams have needed to effectively communicate for almost all of their
existence. If a team is to begin any form of work or is looking to operate in a cohesive manner,
effective communication is necessary. Communication is the backbone on which all work within
an organization is performed. Without proper or sufficient communication, the organization
either ceases to function or is severely hindered in its progress to achieve. Supporting this view is
Laird Mealiea and Ramon Baltazar who wrote in A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams
(2005): Open communication occurs when group members take advantage of
communication opportunities openly share their feelings provide timely and relavent

feedback, and share relevant information with other group members. (p. 145). If this
communication is not allowed to take place, effective and timely work will be immensely
When we think of a leader, we imagine one bold person championing the entirety of a
project taking on the majority of the work, as well as taking the blame if it doesnt work. In this
day and age, as companies and strategies evolve, shouldnt we? With extra attention spent on
how to properly plan out a project between group members, it is often easy to find that every
member of a group can be a leader in their own right. Supporting this claim is Laird Mealiea and
Ramon Baltazar who wrote A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams (2005). They suggest
that: Shared Leadership occurs when such leadership roles as contributor, collaborator,
challenger, facilitator, and controller are carried out by the group members rather than by
the groups leader exclusively. (p. 145). With the right amount of proper planning, each
member of a group can take upon themselves the responsibilities to achieve as a leader. This
frees the stereotypical leader from their constraints in a project and allows them to assist in the
project as any group member might. Additionally this method of group-leadership with proper
planning removes any stigmas that a group might have that suggest the leader does not work as
hard or care as much about the group. If each member of a group is willing and able to take upon
themselves the shared additional responsibilities of being a leader, they will find that their
planning will come to fruition. As stated by Alex Pentland in The New Science of Building Great
Teams (2012), they will be able to achieve: the elusive group dynamics that characterize
high-performing teams. (p. 62).
In order to be an effective team it is crucial to have effective individuals, personal
accountability is an important trait for effective team members to possess. Being accountable for

yourself helps relieve the unneeded stress of having to worry if everyone will do their part that is
sometimes present in ineffective groups. Being personally accountable means that you know how
to effectively do what is required of you, are prepared to get any tasks completed in the
appropriate timeframe, and that you know when to ask for help when it is needed. It is important
that a team member does not fully rely on the rest of their team members. They must be able to
work on their own and get their part of a project finished instead of slowing others down with
constant needs and requests. Laird Mealiea and Ramon Baltazar back up our claim about the
importance of independent team members in A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams
(2005), Prepared for Independence: increases the probability that group members have
the required skills necessary to perform tasks. This can be achieved either through formal
training, coaching, or self-development. (p. 145).
Effective teams are made up of members who our group would consider to be performing
members. These members are ones who contain all of the characteristics we have names such as
a motivational attitude, dependability, leadership capabilities, effective communication, and
proper planning techniques. A team made up of these individuals considered performing
members has a far better better opportunity to meet or exceed their goals than a group of less
qualified members would have. This statement is supported by Lisa Daniels and Charles Davis
What Makes High-Performance Teams Excel (2009), well-functioning teams have been
shown to deliver performance and achievements that exceed the cumulative performance
of the collective individuals. (p. 44). Performing members know what they need to do, how to
do it well, and what materials or tools they are going to need to accomplish their task on time; or
in other words they are fully prepared. Performing members are also vocal of their opinions and
thoughts on how the group is working and the direction they are taking. Laird Mealiea and

Ramon Baltazar write about the importance of speaking up in A Strategic Guide for Building
Effective Teams (2005), If you believe that the group is moving in the wrong direction, or
engaging in activities that will thwart goal achievement, you should stop the group and
express your concerns. (p. 155).
Another final important characteristic of an effective team is their ability to look back and
assess what the positive and negative points of recent projects were in order to move forward and
improve their capabilities as a group. Being honest with all group members and having a unit of
measurement for this is crucial during this process in order for all members to have the
opportunity to improve from the feedback given, it is also important to use this constructively
instead of a way to put down some group members; which will ultimately hurt the group in the
long run. According to Laird Mealiea and Ramon Baltazar in A Strategic Guide for Building
Effective Teams (2005), It is also necessary to indicate why the behaviors are important, the
consequences of desired behaviors, the conditions under which they should be exhibited,
and how group members will be assessed. (p. 155). All of the group members should know
beforehand what is being assessed and what the team goals are so that they have an equal
opportunity to be an effective member. Team members should use this feedback/evaluation step
as a way to evaluate how they did and how they can act as a better leader in the future. This step
makes the process of figuring out what you did well and what you can improve on easier by
using the opinions of all members in order to gather multiple points of views.
Anyone can be placed into a team (willing or unwillingly) and do the minimum amount
of work required of them to achieve their goals. However, if a team member has the right
abilities and a desire to see the group do better than it has in the past, they will find that they can
be more than just another worker in a group of people. By effectively communicating, planning

properly, and putting forth their best effort, any member of a group can be a leader. In a society
that can now have group members ranging from anywhere in the world, it is essential that groups
work together effectively. As stated by Alex Pentland in The New Science of Building Great
Teams (2012): We can vastly improve long-distance work and cross-cultural teams, which
are so crucial in a global economy, by learning their patterns and adjusting them. (p. 70).
By improving our teams from ones where one leader attempts to champion the entire project to
teams where all members of the team can be effective leaders, we can improve the quality of
both the teams that operate for our betterment, and the work they produce.

Works Cited

Davis, R. (2009). What makes high-performance teams excel? Research-Technology

Management, 52(4), 40-45.
Mealiea, L., & Baltazar, R. (2005). A strategic guide for building effective teams. Public
Personnel Management, 34(2), 141.
Pentland, A. (2012). The New Science of Building Great Teams. Harvard Business Review,
90(4), 60-70.