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The Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) is based on the functional leadership claim that the leader’s job is to monitor the team and then take whatever action is necessary to ensure team effectiveness. The model provides a tool for understanding the very complex phenomenon of team leadership, starting at the top with its initial leadership decisions, moving to leader actions, and finally focusing on the indicators of team effectiveness. In addition, the model suggests specific actions that leaders can perform to improve team effectiveness. Effective team leaders need a wide repertoire of communication skills to monitor and take appropriate action. The model is designed to simplify and clarify the complex nature of team leadership and to provide an easy tool to aid leadership decision making for team leaders and members alike.
Effective team performance begins with how the leader sees the situation that the team is experiencing (the leader’s mental model). This mental model reflects not only the components of the problem confronting the team, but also the environmental and organizational contingencies that define the larger context of team action. The leader develops a mental conception of what the team problem is and what solutions are possible in this context, given the environmental and organizational constraints and resources (Zaccaro et al., 2001).
To respond appropriately to the problem envisioned in the mental model, a good team leader needs to be behaviorally flexible and have a wide repertoire of actions or skills to meet the team’s diverse needs (Barge, 1996). When his or her behavior matches the complexity of the situation, the leader is behaving with “requisite variety,” or the set of behaviors necessary to meet the team’s needs (Drecksel, 1991). Effective team leaders are able to construct accurate mental models of the team’s problems by observing team functioning, and can take requisite action to solve these problems. Effective team leaders can diagnose correctly and choose the right action.
Figure 14.1 The Hill Model for Team Leadership
The leader has special responsibility for functioning in a manner that will help the team achieve effectiveness. Within this perspective, leadership behavior is seen as team-based problem solving, in which the leader attempts to achieve team goals by analyzing the internal and external situation and then selecting and implementing the appropriate behaviors to ensure team effectiveness (Fleishman et al., 1991). Leaders must use discretion about which problems need intervention, and make choices about which solutions are the most appropriate (Zaccaro et al., 2001). The appropriate solution varies by circumstance and focuses on what should be done to make the team more effective. Effective leaders have the ability to determine what leadership interventions are needed, if any, to solve team problems. When leadership is shared throughout the team, various members are diagnosing problems and intervening with appropriate behaviors. The monitoring and selection of behaviors is shared throughout the team membership. Given the complexity of team functioning, such shared leadership can—and, in fact, does—lead to greater team effectiveness.
At the bottom of the Hill Model for Team Leadership (Figure 14.1) is “Team Effectiveness,” which focuses on team excellence or the desired outcomes of teamwork. Two critical functions of team effectiveness are performance (task accomplishment) and development (team maintenance). Performance refers to the quality of the outcomes of the team’s work. Did the team accomplish its goals and objectives in a quality manner? Development refers to the cohesiveness of the team and the ability of team members to satisfy their own needs while working effectively with other team members (Nadler, 1998). Excellent teams accomplish both of these objectives: getting the job done and maintaining a cohesive team.
Scholars have systematically studied organizational work teams and developed standards of effectiveness or criteria of excellence that can be used to assess a team’s health (Hackman, 1990, 2002, 2012; Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993; Katzenbach & Smith, 2008; LaFasto & Larson, 2001; Larson & LaFasto, 1989; Lencioni, 2005; Zaccaro et al., 2001). Hackman (2012) has posited six enabling conditions that lead to effective team functioning: (1) Is it a real team? (2) Does it have a compelling purpose? (3) Does it have the right people? (4) Are the norms of conduct clear? (5) Is there support from the organizational context? (6) Is there team-focused coaching? Larson and LaFasto (1989) studied successful teams and found that, regardless of the type of team, eight characteristics were consistently associated with team excellence. Table 14.1 demonstrates the similarity of these excellence characteristics to the enabling conditions suggested by Hackman (2012).
Review the Hill Model for Team Leadership on page 374 of the course textbook. The model identifies internal and external leadership actions over the scope of several elements of team performance and effectiveness. In your initial post, discuss how a shared leadership model might be used in a human services organization. Discuss key factors that must be present for effective team or shared leadership. Include insights from the Hoch article (linked in Resources) about how team leadership relates to organizational innovation.
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