A team leader needs to be like a jazz player and improvise as he goes along. 

Over the years, teams have grown more diverse, dispersed, digital and dynamic. Collaboration has become more complex. 

A conductor who was new to an orchestra was asked if the first rehearsal by the orchestra was the most important one. 

'What do you mean the first rehearsal?' he replied, 'All I have are the first few minutes’. 

The conductor knew that the members of the orchestra would make a very quick assessment as to whether they were going to make great music together under his leadership or whether he would get in their way. 

Every leader is different and brings to the team his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Team leaders should not ape other leaders; there is no one right style for leading a team. 

Yet group collaboration still hinges on a core set of fundamentals: 


  • A compelling direction
  • A strong structure
  • A supportive context


And today, a fourth fundamental is required: 


  • A shared mindset among team members.


Team leaders can develop a shared mindset by fostering a common identity and common understanding. 

How will team leaders know if their efforts are working? 

Leaders can evaluate team effectiveness on three criteria: 


  • Output
  • Collaborative ability and
  • Members' individual development.


The ideal approach combines regular light-touch monitoring for preventative maintenance and less frequent but deeper checks when problems arise. 


Source: Building Better Teams,HBR; Harvard Business Review June 2016