About Us Ellen in the Press Become a Team Leader

Become a Team Leader

By Marty Switzer
September 2004

Looking to make the step up to a leadership or management role? Here are eleven ways to prepare yourself for success and polish up your skill set.

MOST PEOPLE WOULD AGREE THAT being great at your specific job doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be great at managing or leading a team. Management and leadership are whole new ball games, and you need to develop certain skills to assist and support you in these roles. Here are 11 areas you need to think about before you even consider managing or leading people. 


“Always have a plan, and believe in it. Nothing happens by accident,’’ says US football coach Chuck Knox. Likewise, to be a good manager in business, you also have to plan.

Planning is one of the most vital parts to successful management, but for some reason it’s often not considered. Diane Eade of Advanced Leadership Group, a US-based business planning consultancy, believes that good planning must involve strategic direction.

The manager must set an established goal, says Eade, and work out how each member of the team can contribute to achieve that goal. Action plans are critical, she suggests. A manager must involve their team when developing these plans. Gaining input and listening to your team can prove invaluable.  You might also find it helpful to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weakness¬es, opportunity and threats) analysis on yourself. To do this, start by writing down every strength that you have – and don’t be modest. For example, you may tell the truth openly because that’s a quality you think is important.

Now make a list of your weaknesses. For example, you may speak your mind but you may not consider the impact this has on others, who may be crushed when you candidly say whatever you think. Another example of a weakness could be that you enroll in training courses but never end up finishing them.

You need to maximize your strengths and minimize or eradicate any weakness by looking at ways to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

List all the opportunities you’re given on a daily basis — opportunities that could help you develop your talents and capitalize on your strengths. This could be a training course, a social engagement, sporting involvement, etc.

If you do speak the truth but with little regard for the impact your words have on others, then allocating time to attend assertiveness courses (which help you deal with this) could be valuable and add to your management skill set.

One of the biggest threats to human growth is self doubt. Most people have special talents but negativity and self doubt may stop them from developing their talents. If this applies to you, then the first thing to learn about managing or leading others is that you need to be able to manage and lead yourself.


To be an effective manager, you must be a role model to your team or your staff. You must set an example and be a high performer yourself. If you work hard and you are honest with your team, then they will follow you. Role models must take responsibility for their actions and for their team members.

To get the most out of your team, you must be someone they look up to. They must have faith in you and know you’ll do the right thing by them. A role model must be able to make the hard calls, without being a bully, and must ‘walk the talk’. To be an effective manager, you must be optimistic, passionate and communicative. You must also become a teacher to your staff or business team – don’t be alarmed if members of your team know more than you do in some areas.

As a manager, your job is to help them to become experts in their skill area, as well as to create opportunities for them to succeed.

If you want to know how to be an effective role model, think of people in your life who have influenced you positively. Contemplate the qualities you most admired in them, then see if you can determine how much of those qualities are within you and foster them.

If one of your role models always kept their head before using their tongue when they were angry, practice thinking first at every opportunity, before letting anger rule your words. There is an old Chinese proverb that says: “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”



Without doubt, managing people is hard work and most problems in the workplace are people problems. 

To make your job easier, think about setting up a support network such as a personal advisory board. US-based management and leadership expert Ellen Ostrow, principal of Lawyers Life Coach, explains how to achieve this.

    • Assess your learning needs
    • Identify the skills you need to acquire or improve to achieve your career goals for the next year or two
    • Having identified your knowledge needs, identify your advisers
    • Get recommendations from others
    • Observe people you’d like to emulate
    • Look both within as well as outside your current work setting

Ostrow also says you should select people you trust. She recommends that you make sure the alliances you form with your advisers are substantive, strategically important and meaningful.

If this process seems too daunting, consider getting a business coach or mentor to help you improve your performance. Top sports players have them!

Another avenue worth pursuing is the mentoring programs run by many state government departments for people in small business. Alternatively, find some¬one who works close to you by doing an Internet search.

According to legendary American foot¬ball coach, Vince Lombardi, teamwork is an individual commitment to a group effort. All managers must realize the importance of teamwork, he says.  A successful manager must build a team that works well together and is responsive to change. The manager must think of him or herself as the captain of an enterprise. As such, the captain must be a role model who can get the best out of their team. They must earn the respect and loyalty of the team and be admired, not feared. A good captain must also be able to effectively listen to his side.

Eade says that a good measure of whether you really are listening effectively will be that your subordinate is talking 80% of the time and you are talking 20% of the time.

A captain must also encourage independent thinking, delegate but never dump work on the team, accept responsibility for their team’s performance, and share the spotlight. As the captain or manager who wants to get the most out of your team, you must make your subordinates feel that they are working with you, rather than just working for you.


To be successful in management and to stay that way, you must continually seek to improve yourself.  Create schedules for your own training and development and stick to them. If you work for a company, show initiative and sign up for training courses before the company suggests it.  You can also take courses on leader¬ship from places such as Sydney’s St James Ethics centre, an organization for the promotion and exploration of ethics.

Most importantly, back yourself and your team. Be your own advocate. Broadcast your victories and those of the team. Make your team feels proud of their wins. Leaders make their employees feel proud of their victories.


US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. This means that if you’re optimistic, it’s highly likely your team will also be the same. If you have an optimistic and motivated team, you’re in with a big chance of meeting your goals.

Eade writes that optimism is contagious; so is pessimism. Therefore, if you want your team to have a positive ‘can do’ attitude, as a manager you’ll need to be the one to set the tone.

Leaders and managers must be optimistic. They must take control and stop investing energy in things beyond their control. When faced with a setback, optimists move on. They maintain focus and always look at the big picture.


If you want to make it as a manager you have to be able to hang in there and have faith in your team when the times get tough. You may lose the battle but you must remember that you can always win the war. If you give in, your team will give in, so focus on remaining deter¬mined and self-disciplined in your efforts to achieve your goals.


OK, this does sound a bit sappy but it really works. As reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2000, research indicates that the most important characteristics of effective leaders are compassion, generosity, altruism and empathy.

It works like this: if you care about your team and their lives then they will more than likely care about you and what you want to achieve.


If you want to lead and manage successfully, you need to be willing to move out of your comfort zone. Set goals for yourself that are difficult to achieve and then stretch yourself to achieve them. Join a committee, enroll in a course, take a leadership role, express your opinion – “just do it”.

Ostrow says you stand to lose far more by being invisible than you do by taking risks. Bounce back from failure. Just because you failed once doesn’t mean you will fail again. Try to look at your mistakes as learning opportunities.


Great managers communicate with their team. They let them know what is expected, ask them their opinion and get them to give feedback on them as a manager. This is the best possible way to judge your effectiveness. While it may be hard to ask or hard to hear this kind of feedback, it will help you in dealing with your team and make you a better manager. Encourage an environment of openness and honesty.


There are basically two types of managers. The dictator/manager operates under the system where the boss tells the employees what to do and they comply. This style is based on fear and these types of dictatorial managers do not care about feelings or nurturing their team.

Dictatorial managers believe their authority should be obeyed. Some dictators lead this way because they think it’s best. For most who have this style, it relates to how they were treated in their own career.

While this management style can provide results in the short term, the long-term implications are usually disastrous. This behavior can lead to high staff turnover, low employee morale, decreases in productivity and decreased quality of service.

Involvement management is a lot harder because it involves doing everything that has been discussed in this article. But if the balance can be perfected, then the manager has a team that will fight to the death for them and their cause.


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