What makes a good leader?
Self-awareness is key, and so too is learning to embrace important behavioural characteristics that contribute to effective leadership.
Amongst these are ...
STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS - RELIABLE AND EFFICIENT - REALISTIC AND STRATEGIC - KNOWING YOUR STUFF - EFFECTIVE DELEGATOR - ENERGETIC AND DRIVEN - CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE - PEOPLE SKILLS AND EMPATHY - COMMITMENT TO SEE THINGS THROUGH
Can one person strongly exhibit all of these traits?
Whilst we’d like to be abundantly strong in all, it’s unlikely that we can be amidst the complexities and pressures of a real workplace.
Leaders will often succeed because they choose to play to their strongest preferences and use a balanced team to offset their ‘Achilles heels’.
To acknowledge and manage the areas where we do not have abundant strength can be of great use.
After decades of research and practical use in workplaces world-wide, Belbin would assert that leaders have a repertoire of preferred behaviours, manageable and least preferred styles as opposed to having true strength across all nine such traits.
The traits listed above are brief grabs of the key contributions made by nine distinct clusters of behaviour that Meredith Belbin termed as ‘Team Roles’. These behavioural contributions come with strengths, and also associated weaknesses.
We are not one role style / cluster of behaviour in isolation, rather a unique blend, or a chemistry if you will, of a number of them. Humans being adaptable to varying degrees, team role behaviours can also change and adapt over time.
Thinking, Social or Action?
The nine Team Roles are also categorised into Thinking, Social and Action oriented roles.
Some people may straddle all three with access to three preferred / strong team roles, one in each of these categories. Others may sit heavily in one category with their preferred roles.
Some succeed by being across all three, others precisely because they excel in one. It depends upon the mission of the team as to what may be the best fit.
Here is a brief snapshot of how Belbin’s 9 Team Roles may approach leadership from the perspective of both their strengths and the naturally associated weaknesses.
PLANT (Creative and Innovative)
Plant is a ‘thinking’ role and the behaviours will contribute to big picture thinking, creativity and innovation. The associated weaknesses can be around matters of practicality.
Strengths as a leader: Creating new approaches and visions. Seeing unusual solutions. Setting exciting new directions. Unorthodox approaches.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Self-discipline with day to day detail. Taking offence at critique of their ideas. Stress of leadership stifling their creativity. One-upping ideas from others in the team unnecessarily.
MONITOR EVALUATOR (Realistic and Strategic)
Monitor Evaluator is a ‘thinking’ role. Typically they are able to remove emotion from decision-making and weigh up courses of action using analysis and critical thinking. The associated weaknesses tend to be around being perceived as blunt in feedback or overtly cynical.
Strengths as a leader: Great planner. Accurate well-considered decisions. Critical thinking ability. Helps avoid ill-considered decisions and actions.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Lack of tact. Destructive or undue criticism when not warranted. Lack of openness to ‘out there’ / innovative ideas.
SPECIALIST (Knowing your stuff)
Specialist is a ‘thinking’ role. They tend to be a lover of learning, being a subject matter expert in a field or fields that interest them, providing important knowledge and expertise. The associated weaknesses can be around narrow focus only on their field of interest, burdening others with technicalities or becoming territorial.
Strengths as a leader: A dedicated professional and self-starter. Expertise in the field. Helps others understand and deal with complexities and technical matters.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Being too single-minded. Dwelling on technicalities. Lack of patience with generalists / those outside your expertise. Narrowness of focus when on a generalist team.
RESOURCE INVESTIGATOR (Strong Communication Skills)
Resource Investigator is a ‘social’ role, they are curious, explorative and often natural communicators that love to spot and chase opportunity. They also build contacts outside the team. The weaknesses are typically around having lots of loose ends and being weak at follow-through.
Strengths as a leader: Dynamic and enthusiastic. Outward looking. Motivating. Creating new relationships. Finding new opportunities. Not risk averse.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Being tempted away from pressing tasks by things that stimulate you more. Avoidance of day to day details / problems. Lack of caution. Overly optimistic about new opportunities.
COORDINATOR (Effective Delegator)
Coordinator is a ‘social’ role. Typically calm, consultative and able to get the best out of others, and delegate the work to them at the right time. Weaknesses are related to possibly being seen in some scenarios as being manipulative of offloading work.
Strengths as a leader: Consultative approach. Natural delegator. Match the right people to the right task. Good timing of actions and decisions.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Dominating issues. Obstinacy posing as determination. Destructive competition with other dominant roles.
TEAMWORKER (People Skills and Empathy)
Teamworker is a ‘social’ role. They focus on relationships, people and team harmony often offering support and empathy. Associated weaknesses can be reticence to make unpopular decisions / indecisiveness and avoidance of natural team conflicts.
Strengths as a leader: Flexible and non-confrontational. Promotes team spirit. Good listener. Provides personal support and guidance. Encourages open communication.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Being trapped in popularity contests. Siding with people. Being averse to necessary conflict. Avoiding crunch or unpopular decisions.
SHAPER (Energetic and Driven)
Shaper is an ‘action’ role. They exhibit behaviours that are mission-focused, challenging and that give sense of drive and urgency within a team. The weaknesses can be around volatility and being confrontational.
Strengths as a leader: Dynamic and driving. Keeps the team on track. Breaks through obstacles. Knuckles down under pressure. Decisive.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Steamrolling others. Overly anxious or aggressive under pressure. Choosing intensity over diplomacy. Destructive competition with other dominant roles.
IMPLEMENTER (Reliable and Efficient)
Implementer is an ‘action’ role. They provide methodical hard work, loyalty and action-oriented efficiency. The associated weaknesses can be around avoidance of or resistance to change or new ideas.
Strengths as a leader: Self-disciplined. Realistic and pragmatic. Clarifies objectives. Maintains structured and reliable approaches.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Inflexibility. Openness to ‘out there’ / new ideas. Coping with changes. Offering unconstructive critique.
COMPLETER FINISHER (Commitment to see things through)
Completer Finisher is an ‘action’ role. They have an attention to detail and seek high standards, seeking to identify and fix errors before they become an issue. The associated weaknesses tend to be around anxiety and reticence to ‘let go’.
Strengths as a leader: Gives a sense of high standards and purpose to a team. Self-controlled. Sees and deals with capability gaps quickly. Helps avoid preventable errors and mistakes.
Things to watch out for as a leader: Worrying unduly. Anxiety over minor matters. Dislike of delegation and loss of control. Losing sight of broader issues if trapped in the details.
Where to from here?
Leaders and managers derive great benefit from understanding which are their preferred, manageable and least preferred roles. Thus we can better lead with authenticity and play to our strengths. We also understand how best to work with others to contain the impacts of our weaknesses.
Belbin is not about trying to artificially change behaviour, rather it’s about understanding, developing and adapting so as to better manage behaviour. Trying to ignore natural weaknesses or to attempt to artificially remove them may very well undermine our ability to deploy the associated strengths. Authenticity is key.
Be yourself, just a well-managed version at work. Develop well-considered working relationships that exploit strengths, and contain the impacts of weaknesses.
Completing a Belbin profile online and analysing it using our free resources, or by using a Belbin Accredited person to help guide the process, will help leaders best understand how their preferred styles impact performance. It can also help to identify people and strategies to help day to day.