Throughout history, leadership has often been examined through a narrow lens. While analyzed from several viewpoints, including the trait, skills, and psychodynamic approaches, the focus has been mostly on the leader. To develop a full view of leadership, it is vital to shed light on the followers and the situation at hand as well. All three of these variables are considered in team leadership. Groups and teams are important if a leader wants to make an impact beyond their own lives (Williams, 2018). While not immediately recognizable, there are key differences between a group and a team. Within an organization, it is crucial to identify which will be more effective in producing the desired outcome.
Marvin Shaw (1981) defined a group as several people that have the ability to influence and be influenced by each other through their interactions. This means that the group members have a psychological impact on each other’s thoughts and feelings (Williams, 2018). It is important to mention that high-level interaction must take place between members in order for them to be called a group. To demonstrate this, think about this course. It takes place entirely online, so students had almost no interaction with each other until placed into groups for the movie review assignment. Everyone was a stranger until they were forced to collaborate and form groups. Perhaps the most important distinguishing feature of a group is that each member is responsible for a specific and unique task. These tasks are then assembled to create a final product, similar to building a car via Henry Ford’s assembly line (Williams, 2018). Rick DuFour (2009) points out that group members are not entirely dependent upon each other in order to accomplish their tasks. If one group member fails to perform his or her specific task, the other group members’ progress on their respective tasks will not be hindered. For example, if one worker on Ford’s assembly line is unable to attach a tire for some reason, another worker will still be able to paint the body of the car.
In contrast, a team is entirely interdependent (Williams, 2018). In a team, members must work together on each task in order to successfully produce a final product and accomplish their common goal. Rick DuFour (2009) uses Michael Jordan as an example to demonstrate the interdependence of a team. DuFour says that while Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player in history, he struggled to win championships for the first few years of his career because his teammates weren’t pulling their weight. Michael Jordan was part of a team, and therefore had to depend on the help of his teammates in order to win a championship.
Corporate teams have taken over today’s workplace. They can be seen at all levels of an organization and under many different names, such as task forces, project management teams, and committees (Northouse, 2016). In practice, effective organizational teams have been shown to be more productive, utilize resources more efficiently, make better decisions, and promote innovation and creativity (Parker, as cited in Northouse, 2016). One successful application of a corporate team is the construction of a building. This team is made up of the owner, architect, engineers, and contractors. Each member relies on the others in order to successfully assemble a building. For example, the HVAC contractor cannot successfully hook up his or her air conditioning unit unless the electrical contractor has provided adequate power for the unit. Likewise, the electrical contractor cannot know how much power to provide unless the HVAC contractor works with him or her to develop an effective plan.
Corporate teams often utilize team leadership in order to more successfully accomplish their goals. In order to be effective, the leader of a team must start by analyzing the situation at hand. In doing this, the leader examines the problem confronting the team, as well as the environmental variables surrounding the team. The leader then produces a plan of action and supports the followers within the team until the task is accomplished (Northouse, 2016). Here, one can clearly see that team leadership must focus on the leader, the followers, and the situation as a whole.
In conclusion, there are notable differences between a group and a team. While both are comprised of several people interacting to accomplish a common goal, a team requires a higher level of interdependence among its members (Williams, 2018). Team leadership has become increasingly prevalent within today’s corporate world (Northouse, 2016). When led effectively, organizational teams are typically more successful than a group or an individual with a similar goal (Parker, as cited in Northouse, 2016). Successful team leadership requires the analysis of all three leadership variables: the leader, the followers, and the situation.
DuFour, R. (2009). Groups vs. Teams. Lecture presented in Solution Tree. Retrieved June 10, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hV65KIItlE
Parker, G. M. (1990). Team players and teamwork. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Team Leadership. Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. pp. 363-396.
Shaw, M. (1981) Group dynamics: The Psychology of Small Group Dynamics (3rd Ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.