Which Team Are You Leading, Anyways?

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Every leader leads two teams; there’s the team you inherited, and there’s the team you built.

This key truth has been one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned with respect to team leadership.

The team you inherited were already in place before you showed up. They had been assembled by your predecessor, and you simply came along to assume a leadership function.

The team you built is entirely different. These are the people you hand-selected. They are the people you identified, recruited, brought on board and developed.

On the surface they might look remarkably similar.

But experienced leaders will know that both teams have great potential, but they must be led with different leadership skills.

The team you inherited:

  • May have a very different core values than the ones you seek to develop,

  • May be devoted to a different vision and may not fully embrace the vision you bring,

  • May provide you with instant cordiality, but not necessarily instant loyalty,

The team you built:

  • Likely carries the core values you seek, because you screened for this when you recruited them

  • Likely carries the vision you cherish, because they helped you develop it.

  • Is instantly more loyal to you because you brought them on board.

What does this mean to the leader?

1. You can sprint with the team you built, but you journey with the team you inherited.

You patiently bring them along with you to the place where they inhabit the values, vision and, yes, even loyalty, you have created in the team you built.

2. You understand that the journey with the team you inherited takes time.

Some will come on board remarkably quickly, a few will drag their feet but eventually embrace your leadership.

3. You recognize that some on the team you inherited will never come around.

At some point you will need to decide that they will need to find their future on some other team, under someone else’s leadership.

The bottom line is that you want everyone to be on the same page with vision, values and loyalty. But if a few people seem to be lagging behind, check to see if they might be on the team you inherited.

If they are, just be prepared for a longer journey.

In the end, the journey will be worth it.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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