The culture of leadership in the 21st century is relational and collaborative. The pressure is off leaders to feel that they must have all the answers. Instead, when they work within a culture of collaboration, the process of allowing and enabling the unique suite of strengths to flourish is essential. My own team knows so much more than me, it would be foolish not to watch, listen and play to their strengths.
Understanding team development and the role the leader plays is essential. Collaboration occurs when a group of people becomes a functioning team.
In 1965 Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the terms “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his paper Developmental Sequence in Small Groups
Forming: A group of people join to work together in a common cause, but they don’t necessarily know each other. There may be politeness, uncertainty, passion and excitement as the group forms. Some may hesitate, others bluster in. At this stage, it’s the leader’s role to galvanise the group and cast the vision.
Storming: The boundaries begin to be set. People start to rub against each other as working styles differ and processes are challenged. This is when it is important for each group member to find their place, learning to work with each other, rather than against. Storming is hard, but the time taken is worth the effort. The leader needs to allow this process to work through, always keeping the vision in full view.
Norming: Instead of strengths and differences being seen as a point of conflict, the team now appreciates the strengths that each person brings to the project. The leader’s role is to be the rudder, ensuring the group moves with the favourable winds, not against them
Performing: The rubber hits the road and team members take responsibility for their roles and the corporate outputs of the team. The reason ‘why’ is realised. The leader can focus on being the cheerleader and building the capacity of individual team members.
Others have added a fifth step to recognise that teams come to an end, adding ‘Adjourning’ as an opportunity to recognise and celebrate achievements.
Followership matters… for all
This is a significant shift from the command-and-control approach to leadership, where the leader directs. It is releasing, in the sense that the leader releases their grip on the project, gets them to the point of ‘performing’ and then release the team to work in ways they excel. It requires trust and submission on the part of the leader.
Barbara Kellerman in her book, The End of Leadership, questions the focus of leadership development over the past few decades. She asks,
Isn’t teaching good followership as important now as teaching good leadership?
When we consider the role of the leader in the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing process it can be argued that the leader models the role of the good follower, by allowing the team members to flourish – individually and corporately.
Followers matter… They have always mattered, and they matter more now than before… Just as we encourage learning to lead, we should encourage learning how to follow—how to engage, how to collaborate and compromise, how to serve and support good leaders, how to challenge and even take on bad leaders.
A follower is a person who is interested in the progress or development of something. Just because we are leaders it doesn’t mean we can’t simultaneously be a follower as well. Developing skills of ‘followership’ is a highly effective way to model to your team the preferred types of behaviours and values, establishing and reinforcing the culture.