Individuality, integration: leadership styles in team collaboration.

Author:Getha-Taylor, Heather

Today's heightened attention to collaboration amid resource constraints and boundary-spanning problems places new requirements on public managers at all levels of government. Managers must balance the demands of hierarchical leadership within their home organizations with collaborative leadership behaviors that are externally focused.

In their 2010 article in The Leadership Quarterly, Chris Silvia and Michael McGuire differentiated these behaviors and noted that emergent behaviors may not have been emphasized or developed. The current context implies a need for both self-reflection and attention to the ways in which individual leadership strengths can be expanded and utilized. Understanding how to identify, manage, and develop collaborative leadership abilities is a contemporary public management priority.

Achieving Team Balance

Interpersonal understanding is one of the most important competencies that differentiate successful collaborators, according to Rosemary O'Leary, Yujin Choi, and Catherine Gerard in their 2012 Public Administration Review article that explores successful collaborators. This finding echoes my 2008 work on identifying collaborative competencies that appeared in the Review of Public Personnel Administration. The ability to effectively understand self and others can contribute to improved team balance as well as outcomes of interest.

In addition, encouraging diversity in partner strengths allows teams to attend to major elements of collaborative effectiveness, including process, goals, tasks, and questioning, says Glenn Parker in his book, Team Players and Teamwork: New Strategies for Developing Successful Collaboration (2008).

Parker's work identifies four teamwork styles (shown in Table 1 on page 40), each of which reflects one of these key priorities. According to Parker's typology, communicators prioritize process, collaborators prioritize goals, contributors prioritize tasks, and challengers prioritize questioning. Parker notes that everyone has the capacity to act in each of these roles, although most people have a dominant style. Leaders can identify their style through reflective self-assessment.

Achieving team balance, however, requires more than just an honest self-assessment of individual strengths. It also requires an ability to identify the strengths of others, attentiveness to the balance of strengths among partners, and a willingness to adjust personal style and actions based on the needs of the group.

Part of the challenge associated with these tasks is the potential conflict that exists between individual "espoused theories" of action and actual "theories in use," which Chris Argyris and Donald Schon explored in their work, Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (1974). Based on this conflict, two questions emerge: first, do collaborators' dominant styles match their actions? And if not, how do adaptations affect team balance?

A collaboration simulation provides an opportunity to examine these questions via pre- and post-survey data. Particularly in training and educational settings, simulations offer a variety of advantages, such as bridging the gap between the classroom and the real world by providing experience with complex, evolving problems. However, they require considerable planning as well as attention to multiple interacting components, including participant engagement with the task and with peers.

Given these challenges, this study used a tested product: co-author Scott Simmerman's "The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine (LDGM)." This collaborative leadership development tool has been offered to diverse groups around the world since 1993 and focuses on collaborative information and resource sharing, and project management and organizational alignment to shared goals.

Simulation Transfers Knowledge Into Behavior

Learning exercises such as...

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