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Principled Leadership

The final characteristic of high performing teams is principled leadership. As teams initiate their work, it is important that they are guided by highly motivated individuals (often referred to as “champions”) who possess a willingness to set aside narrow and parochial interests in order to identify and achieve a vision and mission that are larger than any one individual or agency. Effective, principled leaders focus their efforts on the collaborative process of how people from different disciplines and agencies work together rather than on a particular point of view (or the content of the problem being addressed). If leaders bring the right stakeholders together in constructive ways (the process) with good information, the team will generate appropriate responses and solutions to the problem or issue at hand (the content).

Leadership of the collaborative process is undertaken and exhibited in many ways that are outlined and discussed on this Web site, including:

Ultimately, and ideally, all team members become leaders who work to keep one another at the table, celebrate their successes on a consistent basis, remain committed to reaching consensus, value the contributions of everyone involved, and uphold agreed-upon norms and ground rules. Champions and effective leaders of collaborative endeavors, therefore, work to develop the leadership qualities of others and, over time, share their responsibilities. If members of a team do not know how to work together, then leaders teach them. When teams lose sight of their vision and mission, leaders bring these back into sharp focus and highlight their importance. When new leaders emerge, seasoned, principled leaders enthusiastically partner with them.

The most effective leaders are also inspiring. They make others want to be part of the collaborative effort. Individuals gravitate towards them because they want to be involved in everything that the leaders are doing. Leaders imbue everything they do with a spark, a spirit, and a confidence in the initiative’s importance and success. They set a positive example for other team members, and set and uphold standards of excellence that the team will follow. When leaders establish high expectations, amazing things can and do happen.

Click here for a team work exercise that will help your team to identify and select an effective leader.