Fast Company: 6 Ways Great Leaders Step Up in the Moment to Inspire Their Teams - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks to Fast Company, in this article, Michelle observes that every time there is a change, you need to reassess the team’s dynamics and discuss and agree on the principles of how to work together.

The lingering impact of COVID-19 on working relationships continues, along with shifts in societal trends, both of which have implications for how leaders engage their team members. The Accenture Life Trends 2024 report highlights these shifts in life paths, noting, “On individual and societal levels, people are rethinking the features or milestones of life and crafting different paths.” These changes require leaders to step up, do more, and be more.


The image of a strong leader still holds sway, and employees want their leader to inspire confidence. But there is a difference between confidence and hubris. A confident leader is willing to be vulnerable. As Brené Brown defines in her book Dare to Lead, vulnerability is “. . . the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

Vulnerable leaders admit what they don’t know, ask for help, and listen to feedback. They do what is hard while creating a work environment where team members feel confident to be themselves. Don’t confuse vulnerability with disclosure. Effective leaders share personal experiences while maintaining appropriate and safe boundaries.


While it might seem counterintuitive, giving team members more autonomy can lead to greater engagement. Leaders foster a sense of responsibility and commitment in their team by empowering individuals to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Researchers Viktoria Boss and colleagues found that in offering autonomy, there is a balance in how much to offer. In their research, teams had autonomy over the project idea, who to work with, and both or no autonomy.

The positive impact of selecting the project idea was more substantial than the effect of choosing team members. However, those gains disappeared when the participants had autonomy over both elements. The researchers concluded: “The teams that were given some autonomy significantly outperformed both those with full autonomy and those with no autonomy.” You want to set the goal, determine the standard, be balanced, and know where the approach is flexible.


Dissent raises concerns that it can be destructive. However, constructive disagreement leads to better decision-making and innovation in teams. The University of Virginia professor Kristin Behfar and colleagues discovered that when conflict in teams becomes personal, the team is less productive.

However, when the issues of contention focus on priorities and goals, for example, the disagreement can lead to better outcomes. You want to create a safe and accountable space for different ideas and opinions and promote respectful debate.


Rather than focusing solely on business outcomes, prioritize your team members’ personal growth and development. When you invest in training and development opportunities, you actively demonstrate that your team matters to you.


Servant leaders prioritize their team members’ individual needs and interests and reorient concern for themselves toward concern for others. By focusing on the needs of team members at an individual level, you recognize that each team member is unique, and how best to work with them can differ. Consequently, as a leader you focus on collective and individual needs to secure optimal outcomes.


A team is a group, which means all the rules around group dynamics and how groups function play a role. Teams will often spend time working out and agreeing on their ways of working. They might agree on a values statement or team charter.

However, once it’s completed at the annual team day, it is cemented in place. This approach fails to appreciate that the team’s dynamics shift every time someone leaves or enters the team. Consequently, every time there is a change, you need to reassess the team’s dynamics and discuss and agree on the principles of how to work together.

Yes, this takes time, but it’s the most effective way of ensuring buy-in and agreement on how you engage and work together. You want everyone working from the same base of understanding so they know the standard and can hold each other to account.

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