What does leadership have to do with teamwork?

How sharing leadership responsibilities amongst members of a common group, known as internal leadership sharing, allows individual and the group to “serve the greater good and soar!”

Kathy Heasley, founder and president of Heasley and Partners, was asked by Business News Daily to share her definition of leadership (along with 29 other business leaders). Her response was, "Leadership is being bold enough to have vision and humble enough to recognize achieving it will take the efforts of many people — people who are most fulfilled when they share their gifts and talents, rather than just work. Leaders create that culture, serve that greater good and let others soar." 

Heasley’s thought is key in that it acknowledges an idea regarding leadership that is often ignored, that good leadership qualities and characteristics are determined and measured within the context of a group or team. To say one has great leadership skills without any notable experience working in a team context is to say one thinks one has leadership skills or one has aspirations to be a leader, but in reality has no proof of being a leader. Similarly to the idea of the first follower, like Heasley says, the best leaders are those who acknowledge the diversity of skills and perspective within their group (of colleagues, partners or wishers of change) and create a space for all individuals in the group to lead in their own way.

Not only does this internal leadership sharing make for more successful movements – we’ve all heard the saying “two heads are better than one” – it also helps members of the group feel more useful and valuable to the overall movement. Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development offers a personality inventory program called Real Colors. In this program, 4-H educators facilitate participants through the identification of their dominant “colors.” The assessment tool used is based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, but presents different personality characteristics as colors rather than letters. From our experience, this helps youth remember their dominant colors and what those colors represent more easily, increasing the accessibility of the information for future application. The foundational concept in this program is that every person has all the colors in his or her personality, some colors just become more dominant than others in varying situations. Additionally, the program teaches the intrinsic value of having all the colors represented in a team (i.e., creating team comprised of individuals who, together, represent all the colors as dominant).

This program teaches young people about the value of diverse perspectives, heightened self-awareness and understanding of personal strengths, and the importance of identifying the strengths of others when working in a team. This last bit paves the road for individuals to have the opportunity to lead the team in roles that are meaningful to them; roles in which they have skills or qualities to help increase their likelihood of being successful. All this results in individual leaders collaborating for the benefit of the group’s goals. This internal leadership sharing allows the individual and the group to “serve the greater good and soar!”

Please see “It takes a follower to be a leader” for more thoughts on the diversity in manifestations of leadership and the importance of acknowledging all who play a part in movements of change. For an example of a Michigan 4-H Real Colors program description, see Real Colors Workshop. Contact the Michigan 4-H Leadership and Civic Engagement team of educators at 4-HLeadership@anr.msu.edu for more information.

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