Superior Leadership: 2 Keys to Lead Amazing Teams

I spent some time investigating the leadership attributes for self-managing teams and exploring the need for developing trust within a group. I explored the research conducted of a study of 300 self-managed teams at a large manufacturing plant of a fortune 500 corporation. The authors of the research investigated both average and superior-performing external leaders at the site to determine the behaviors that separated one group from the other (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004).

The purpose of the study was to shine light on the tendency to allow teams to be left to “run themselves to be highly efficient and productive. To be successful, such autonomous groups require a specific type of external leadership” (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004). In examining their research, I discovered four basic functions identified by the authors that the superior-performing leaders, but today I’m focusing on two of them – relating, and scouting.

Here is what I discovered about superior-performing leaders who lead self-managing teams or groups. I hope it helps you with your family or group that you lead!

The Four Functions: Relating.

External leaders must continually move back and forth between the team and the broader organization to build relationships. Success in this area requires three behaviors: being socially and politically aware, building team trust and caring for team members” (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004).

Building trust between both the organization and the team can be a challenging task. A leader in this role is confronted daily with the “triumphs and irritations” of the organization and team (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004). Managing the impact of decisions of the organization on its team, or the personality issues of the team to the organization requires a leader to establish trust with both the organization and the team that he leads.

“Average leaders tend to see team members’ personal problems as impediments, whereas superior leaders view them as opportunities to build relationships” (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004). Being able to confront personal and organizational problems effectively is critical to team health.

As issues arise, either personal or organizational, superior-functioning leaders are able to establish enough trust to allow for issues to addressed and resolved. “Effective teams are able to express its self-awareness by being mindful of shared moods as well as the emotions of other individuals within the group” (Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. 2013, p. 178).

A leader who has not established trust with the team will not allow the team to share personal feelings, or be sensitive to and respect the feelings of others.

The Functions of Leadership: Scouting.

“To scout effectively, external leaders must demonstrate three behaviors: seeking information from managers, peers and specialists; diagnosing member behavior; and investigating problems systematically” (Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V., 2004).

As a leader models vulnerability and transparency to establish trust with the team, the team will be willing to share hard truths with each other to identify the real problems within the organization. “They have to be able to trust each other to really say what they are thinking, and they have to trust each other that if they said it, it would be well received, even if disagreed with” (Cloud, H., 2013, p. 174).

“Intent is the key to trust” (Cloud, H., 2013, p. 178). The key role of a superior-performing leader is to invest with, share with, work with, and be present with the team enough to allow the team to trust their intent.

Everyone must know and believe that the intent to scout is not to hurt, but to help and make things better for everyone on the team, and for the organization at the same time. Conscientiousness is an attribute to allow for leaders to scout effectively “because conscientious individuals have more tenacity and persistence (Goldberg, 1990), we expect that conscientious individuals will be more effective leaders.” (Judge, T. A., Bono, J. E., Ilies, R., Gerhardt, M. W., 2002).


Cloud, H. (2013). Boundaries for leaders: Results, relationships, and being ridiculously in charge. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Druskat, V. U. & Wheeler, J. V (2004). How to lead a self-managing team. MIT Sloan Management Review, 45(4), 65-71.

Goldberg, L. R. (1990). An alternative “description of personality”: The Big-Five factor structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1216–1229

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal leadership: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Judge, T., Bono, J., Ilies, R., and Gerhardt, M., (2002). Personality and Leadership: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 87, No. 4, (Oct., 2002), pp. 765-780.

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