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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Giombetti: Teams and Leaders Both Have Their Place

by Shel Horowitz

Should you structure your business in egalitarian teams or in leader-driven work groups? According to Rick Giombetti and Paul Alves of Family Business center sponsor Giombetti Associates, the answer is “it depends.”

Alves called the team style “the Holy Grail” of personnel management. Teams typically demonstrate spontaneity, a supportive environment, and a lot of informal communication. Since their members are often cross-trained, teams may show high competency levels. Leader-directed groups focus more on results, less on process, and channels may be much more formal.

If a team-based environment is floundering, chaotic, conflict-ridden, and lacking in focus, it's time for a more traditional leadership style. But when the leader doesn't know his or her objectives, there's an authority transition, or the organization feels a need for creative input and new strategies, let the teams have at it.

And the best way to shift between the two modes is to use a third mode: a hybrid they call the “Accelerated Synergy Zone.” This is where the egalitarian and hierarchical leadership styles intersect. to put it another way, in Rick Giombetti's words, “a leader can act as a catalyst to motivate effective teams.”

A work group is at its most effective when it charts between the extremes of both teams and leader-driven groups on such measures as social skills, good will, collaborative ability, communication, dominance, and authority. “Not too warm and fuzzy- or too dictatorial- but there's got to be leadership in either model.”

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