Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Why Teams Rarely Rise Beyond the Level of the Leader

Leaders: If you’re frustrated at the level of your team or vendor’s performance, then look no further than the mirror.  Only in vary rare cases will a team perform better than the level of their leader.  Why?  Because it’s the leader who sets the boundaries, deadlines, and guidelines. It’s the leader who creates the culture, and sets expectations. As a result, no matter how gifted or creative a team is, if the leader is incompetent, insecure, or inexperienced, the team can only work within that framework.

A number of years ago, I had a client who “led by threat.” She had no idea how to inspire her team or vendors. Every instruction came as a threat: “If you can’t do this, we’ll find someone who can.”  We had no incentive to rise to the occasion, since all we ever heard was how unhappy she was.  She constantly felt the need to remind everyone that she was in charge.  Plus, her expectations, deadlines, and parameters for projects were ridiculous. Whatever we recommended, she was convinced she knew better. To say the least, it’s was a difficult situation.

If an employee, team member, or vendor isn’t performing well, then a good leader fixes the problem – either by working with them or cutting them loose. Either way, he or she does it quickly so it doesn’t fester or create bigger problems.

So – if you’re constantly frustrated, yelling, or angry with your team, the odds are, it’s not their fault. Chances are, it’s the limitations you’re putting on their work. Set them free from your unrealistic expectations and insecurities, and watch them fly.

Have you ever been on a team with limited leader?

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  1. Yes. A man who consistently asked my Beautiful Bride and me to do different projects and then came back a week later and told me I was doing them wrong when I did exactly what he wanted me to in the first place.

    I reported all of the specific, measurable and observable behavior to the main leader (at his request) on a paper and faxed it to him. I thought they would discipline him.

    Two weeks later were forced to leave by them. They treated us like criminals. When a counselor from the unemployment office heard my story she asked how we could have possibly worked for this guy. I told her that we did the best we could with his confusing, unrealistic expectations.

    She granted full unemployment benefits for my Beautiful Bride and me. During the next six months we were blessed with more money from unemployment benefits than working for him.

    Insecure people feel intimidated and threatened with people who are confident and assertive with excellent behavior and performance!

  2. I definitely had this experience.

    I worked on a team with some very qualified and gifted web engineers working for a startup with a great product. The boss ignored every estimate of time, always stating that “if you put your mind to it, you can do it by ___”. As the overzealous deadlines drew nearer, his blood would slowly boil as desired progress wasn’t seen. If a team member tried to explain that the expected progress simply wasn’t possible and why, they were accused of “hedging” or “being defensive”.

    As a result, almost every client deadline was missed, and the ones that were made had large amounts of product defects, because everyone was cramming so hard just to get it out the door, since the boss wouldn’t take no for an answer.

    This, of course caused the boss to lose confidence in the team because everything they put out had an unusual amount of defects. The snowball grew as the product suffered and grew more unstable due to team members being forced to put in “quick fixes” just to please the boss.

    Of course, the boss was the one who lost more than anyone else as talent moved on to kinder waters and clients lost confidence in the company.

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