How to Spot a Team Leader


We can all agree that leadership in the workplace generally describes the person or people at the top of the organizational structure who provide guidance, set the mission or vision, and to some extent provide the blueprint for the course of action that employees will pursue. How many times have you heard the phrase, “natural born leader?” This phrase implies that some people are actually anointed to lead while others may have simply been appointed to lead. It could be true that some folks inherently possess a few personality traits that others perceive as indicators of leadership potential.

What does an outstanding leader look like? An outstanding leader is articulate and works with energy, drive, and ambition. This person should be well informed, be dynamic, and have substance in addition to style. Strong leaders set goals. A great leader can clearly state goals that are attainable, measureable, and realistic.

Strong leaders also know how to delegate. If you’re a leader and you do the work of others because you think you do it faster, you may have a problem in this area. Smart leaders learn when and how to delegate work tasks. At some point during your career it’s almost certain that you’ll observe someone who will demonstrate leadership style you want to emulate or want to avoid. Here’s four styles and how to spot them.

The task manager.

This person is defined as having a demanding leadership style. The task manager has a way of keeping the situation tense and keeping people off guard as much as possible. Staff that work with a task manager may be unable to achieve objectives to the satisfaction of the leader. As a result, team members working with this person will need to achieve a sense of accomplishment outside the organization if they seek security and self-esteem. The task manager does not truly allow the opportunity for others to have achievement. Failures will be seen as the fault of subordinates while success will be seen as due to the skill of the manager or leader. Weaknesses in people are more readily seen as opposed to their potential strengths. Have you seen the Devil wears Prada? Miranda Priestly fits nicely into this category.

The do-nothing manager.

This manager allows the work climate to spiral into confusion. Team members will be frustrated as people become unsure of where they stand or what’s going on due to a lack of information or action. Stronger people will begin to dominate weaker people and some may carve out their own empires as opposed to participating in collaborative team work. Here, overall team achievement levels will be low and there is a great risk that staff will leave to work in a more dynamic environment. I’d love to give an example of a do-nothing manager but honestly they ALL do something – even if it’s not what we’d like.

The country club manager.

If you do not like rapid change you will be in sync with this type of manager but if you consider yourself a hard worker this management style may cause discomfort. Although the country club manager tends to create a warm safe haven, highly self-motivated workers may become frustrated. This person can make everyone feel needed and wanted but can also tend to treat people like children. In the worst case scenario this style communicates a “do your own thing” atmosphere. The best example for this type of manager might be Sam Malone from Cheers.

The team manager.

Aaaaah, the team manager. This person can successfully create a climate which satisfies psychological needs of the team and also meets the task needs of the organization. The team manager has the skill to cause staff to use their capabilities to accomplish departmental and personal goals. A team climate is created in which creativity can flourish and the desire to contribute is maximized. Team managers maximize staff relationships while keeping individual success at a high level. This person creates a situation in which team members regard each other as competent and worthwhile. Goals are clear and full use of potential is encouraged. Who even comes close to this unicorn of leadership style? Despite her personal challenges I would say Jules from The Intern fits this profile.

Of course these aren’t the only types of team leaders out there but you can train yourself to spot these types and others and understand how these leadership styles affect work teams.

Yolanda Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Susan Miles

Excellent info for all managers in the workforce. I will share the link on Facebook so we can be effective managers. Thanks. Looking forward to the next blog.


What about the sniper? Their team is always “the best” and the manager is always taking pot shots at other teams. Sometimes it’s in the guise of “helping” and other times just to see what kind of havoc they can create. The goal of their sniper attacks are to undermine all other teams and they treat their own team like a group of teacher’s pets.

Sheri L. Osborne

Shame on you, govloop! The info is really good but the picture shows a man as “the leader.” Why not utilize the group shot to show case diversity of leadership?????