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The Five Most Important Things a Team Leader Should Do

Many things are essential for a leader to build an effective team. However, there are things all leaders should do if they want to build teams that thrive, continue to grow, and perform at a high level.

Building trust always comes up in leadership. Is developing trust the first thing an effective leader must do as their team forms and launches? Most people would say yes because we think of things in order of importance. However, critical aspects of building a successful team must happen potentially before another, even if considered equal or greater importance.

Here are five critical areas of building a successful team and why one falls in line before another.

Collective Purpose

Before trust, a team needs to know its purpose. Leadership is the collective pursuit of delivering on purpose. Todnem (2021) cites (Porras, 2005), who defines purpose as the pursuit of a worthy idea and activity, the outcome of which goes beyond the individual and the individual organization, should inform organizational core values – not to be confused with cultural or operating practices. Purpose is often considered foundational because it provides the underlying reason for existence or the "why" behind what the team or project is doing. With a clear purpose, aligning efforts, making decisions, or measuring progress effectively is easier. Purpose provides direction and meaning, guiding actions and decisions toward a common goal. Leadership must focus first on purpose, the invisible leader of your team. Great teams pursue a shared purpose that prioritizes making decisions together rather than advising one member who makes all the decisions. (Hartwig & Bird, 2015).



Once a team knows and agrees on its collective purpose, it can work on relationships that will build trust. First, team leaders build trust by being competent in their tasks related to teaching, leading, visioning, or whatever else (Hartwig & Bird, 2015).



 Vision complements purpose by articulating the team or project's desired future state or outcome. While purpose provides the fundamental reason for existence, vision inspires and motivates individuals by painting a compelling picture of success. A well-defined vision helps align efforts, stimulate innovation, and rally stakeholders around a shared goal. With a clear purpose, a team understands why and, with a collective purpose, can share the same vision.



The first three—purpose, trust, and vision—create the foundation for building a thriving team. The following two may spark some debate because the list of options can be significant. When trust is established, and a shared vision is created, the logical step is communication.

Communication is critical. The leader must promote open and safe communication within the team at all levels. Team members must also feel psychologically safe. This is more important than one may realize on the surface. Important communication could be shut down unless team members feel they can say anything anytime without unwarranted retribution.

In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry because it lost a large piece of insulating foam critical to its reentry. An engineer saw the video and sent it to engineers but was afraid to send it higher up the chain. Eight days later, the shuttle burned up on reentry, and all seven crew members were lost. This account of the tragedy reflects the unusually dramatic consequences of not speaking up in the workplace.



 Finally, a leader must promote collaboration. Promoting collaboration is a way of working with colleagues characterized by cooperation, mutual respect, and shared goals. It involves sharing information, coordinating actions, and discussing what is working and what is not.

By Gerry Savage

President, Four Pillars Consulting Group


Todnem, R. (2021). Leadership: In pursuit of purpose. Journal of Change Management, 21(1), 30–44.

Hartwig, R. T., & Bird, W. (2015). Teams that thrive: Five disciplines of Collaborative Church leadership. IVP Books.



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