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The Effective Leadership of Self-managing Work Teams

The main topic of my chosen article is ‘The Effective Leadership of Self-managing Work Teams’. This topic is presented on the week 8 and 10 in our unit guide with the title ‘Individuals and Groups’ and “Leadership”. In the textbook, this topic is presented in chapter 14 and chapter 16 which come from part 5 ‘Leading’.

Referring to the article, the main arguments presented by the authors is that external leader behaviours do support to the self-managing work team success. Their objective is also to increase the understanding of the role of an external leader who is the leader to whom a team reports to. Self-managing work teams are natural workgroups where they work together to perform a task.

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They take on management into their works where each of them performs as supervisors and managers. According to the article, leading a team that manages itself will need a distinctive approach to leadership. They carry out more responsible with more complex and demanding roles than the traditional team leadership.

Traditional team leadership, they are more expected to lead by monitoring and managing those teams while external leaders are expected to lead by monitoring and managing back to their teams. Subsequently, boundary-spanning activities where the external leader needs to interact with various organizations who supply the team with resources and support is very essential to determine their success in that role. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435; Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter, 2003: 737) In order to be an effective leader in the self-managing work teams which is also known as self-directed work teams, they must know how to influence a team and others in an organization.

For instance, their ability to persuade their team members to listen, talk and accept advice will be much more advantageous to them as a leader. Secondly, they ought to know how and with whom to build relationships that involve networking especially with their subordinates. There are times when the self-management team needs the leader to seek and scout for information too because when they do not receive the information there is the risk of becoming over bounded. Thus, the ability of the leader to scout and share the information is very important as it will facilitate team self-management and effectiveness.

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In a self-management team, they are expected to have their own decisions. Here is when external leaders come in to view and ensure that his or her team decisions support the team’s effectiveness. In addition, the external leaders need to ensure their behaviours and strategies do meet the expectation of the team self-management and team effectiveness. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435; Williams, 1995)

The authors have made some research to their objectives using the comparative multiple case study method. They choose two cases sample those with average and those with superior performance. This is to identify the behaviours and strategies that distinguish the performance of external leaders. In the two cases sample, the author wanted the superior performance to be considered as more outstanding according to the objectives and the assessments of the managers and team members whom they work with.

Therefore, they use three criteria which are objective team performance, team member nominations for outstanding leaders and managers nominations for outstanding leaders to select the final sample from the pool of 66 external leaders. Team members and managers were questions to identify the most outstanding leaders in the plant by using the nomination process. They were given ballot listing names of all the 66 external leaders after they have participated in one of six two-hour focus groups about the external leader role. From the result of the nomination, the authors found out that the mean of superior leaders who is in the leadership role is 14.6 and on the other hand the average performer mean is only 8.7. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435)

Furthermore, an observation was also carry on to the teams’ production processes and collect data from team members and managers to gain an understanding to why and when leaders use the specific behaviours. Besides, that interviews were carry on to obtain the manager’s point of view like what matters most to be successful in the external leader role. As a result, they discovered 11 behaviours that have been used always by the superior performers. These 11 behaviours could be view in table 1 in the appendix section.

However, after several discussions and reviews, the authors have categorized them into four functional of leader behaviours which are relating, scouting, persuading and empowering. These four functional clusters will lead to a well effective self-managing work team which brings a sign to the effectiveness of external leadership. These functional behaviours it is described in two subsections which is organization-focused behaviour and team focused behaviour. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435) One of the functions of leader behaviours discuss by the authors is relating. It involves developing social awareness and political relationships.

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They need this function because they are involved in the boundary spanning activities where they have to obtain information from the management or their teams. In the organization-focused behaviour, the significance of social and political awareness is much more emphasis on the external leaders as scouting for information about organizational agendas. For the team-focused behaviour relating consist of two behaviour which is caring for their team members and building team trust.

Showing their teams they were reliable and fair will build the trust within them and from there they will feel that they are useful in a way. Scouting is the second function of leader behaviours presented by the authors. For scouting, it involves searching for information in the organization where they need to clarify each need. Such information is much needed to make a better decision and support for the organization and teams.

In the organization-focused behaviours for scouting, superior performers will have to seek information from the managers, peers and also the specialist. As for the team-focused behaviour, leaders are expected to scout information from the outside and also inside their own teams through two activities. For the first one, they need to obtain information about the team members’ needs, weakness, problems as well as their strength.

The second activity is to engage with investigating problems, collecting data and analyzes the problems. From there, the leader would be able to observe the problems and solutions from their team member point of view. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435) Persuading is another function of leader behaviours where the leader has to know how to influence their team members to support their organization and to reach their organization’s goals.

At the organizational level, persuading is labelled as obtaining external support because the leader has to influence their external people such as managers. However, at the team level, leaders are expected to encourage and influence a team to make a reasonable choice. One more of the function leader behaviours are empowering. It involves the external leader distributing the power to her or his teams where they can raise their capability as self-managing work teams. This function for team-focused behaviour includes delegating authority, flexibility regarding team decisions and coaching. (Druskat and Wheeler, 2003: 435)

From the textbook, we can see that there are four main leader behaviour studies which are The University of Iowa studies, The Ohio State studies, The University of Michigan Studies and the managerial grid. Each of them has different views towards this leader’s behaviour. In The University of Iowa studies, they discovered three ways of behaving: (1) autocratic style, (2) democratic style, (3) laissez-faire-style. For the first one, the limitation for team members to participate is very limited while the democratic style involves more participation with encouragement from the leader.

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For laissez-faire, a leader generally gives his or her group the freedom to make the best decisions. The Ohio state studies identified two dimensions of leadership behaviour which is considered and initiating structure. This initiating structure is similar to the functional leader behaviour by Druskat and Wheeler (2003) which is persuading because both need the leader to structure and organize the work related to meet the goals of the organization. On the other hand, consideration structure requires the leader to be considerate towards the team members’ ideas and feelings. The Michigan group had also come out with two leadership behaviours.

According to them in the employee orientated leaders emphasized interpersonal relationship while production-oriented is basically tend to stress on the task of the job. From the managerial grid, we can see that two leadership behaviours which are a concern for people and concern for products being used to provide a conceptual framework. However, it does not provide a clear conclusion as there is too little evidence to support it. (Robbins et al., 2003: 483-487)

In conclusion, external leaders’ behaviours as discussed above are to ensure the effectiveness of their leadership in the self-managing work teams. They have to be smart to identify which type of behaviours they are going to imply into their leadership as it will reflect the way the work organized and performed. As a result, we will also see how it affects the production of that certain organization.

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The Effective Leadership of Self-managing Work Teams. (2021, Jan 31). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from