To show leadership, there needs to be at least two members working to achieve a goal. There must be a leader, follower, and a situation. In the textbook of Leadership, Northouse mentions “Team members must work collectively to achieve their goals.” (Northouse, 2016, p. 363)
While on a kayaking tour a few years ago, my husband and I decided to be a team and chose a tandem (two-seater) kayak. There was a large group of kayakers that had both single kayaks and tandem kayaks. There was also one tour guide for the large group.
The tour guide gave us our instructions on how to get in and out of the kayak, how the tandem kayaks work with two people, and what and where we will be seeing and going on the tour. The instructions for the tandem kayak were pretty simple and clear. The front person paddles and the back person steers the kayak.
My husband and I found the simple instructions not so simple as we started to paddle in circles while the rest of the group started on their journey. Instead of working together, we started to get frustrated and negative words were being exchanged. We couldn’t decide whom the leader was and whom the follower was; we did know we had a situation.
Quickly we settled down and discussed our situation. My husband was up front and I was in the back. We decided that the person in the back would be the leader because of the steering requirement and the person in the front just rowed and followed the direction of the person in the back. The person in the back could tell the front person to switch sides in order to help the back person steer the kayak.
Following the steps as Northouse suggests, characteristics of team excellence require a clear goal, results-driven structure, competent members, unified commitment, collaborative climate, standards of excellence, support and recognition, and principled leadership. (Northouse, 2016)
My husband and I might have had a shaky start, but we did end up following along with the characteristics of team excellence. We talked about our goal of keeping up with the rest of the tour group. We created a structure that would allow us to get the results of keeping up with the group. I would be the leader and steer the kayak while letting him know when to switch sides while paddling. He would be the follower and only paddle and switch paddling sides based on what direction I was deciding to go. There was only two members and we found ourselves to be incompetent at first, but quickly made ourselves competent member. We quickly came to a unified commitment. We worked together in the kayak, our standard was to show the other group members that we knew what we were doing. We supported high fived each other when we finally caught up with the group. Finally, although we worked as a team, my leadership abilities helped us come together and be an effective team.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership. Los Angeles: Sage.