In my post on Layers of Leadership, I clarified that leadership teams have layers that go from specific areas of leadership (teacher leaders) to broad areas of leadership (campus leaders). By themselves their leadership potential is not potent, but when the layers work interdependently, their potential grows exponentially. Interdependence occurs when there is a high level of trust, respect and dependence on another. Leaders on a team with a high level of trust are selfless in their commitment to the cause and will do anything to help their fellow teammates.
Here are some tips that leaders can employ to foster higher levels of trust, teamwork and interdependence.
1. Establish Norms - Just like teams need norms for working together, leaders that work together need to create norms on everything from when to meet to how to resolve conflict. If leaders fail to norm their behaviors in working together, they will not be prepared to get through difficult or stressful situations. In addition, they will undermine their own leadership with the people that they work with. Successful relationships depend on making agreements of how we will work together.
2. Respect the Expertise of One Another - Everyone is trying their best to do their part to lead their area. It is critical that leaders respect one another's ability and effort to lead and not rush to judgement when problems arise. If leaders rush to judgement, they may cause damage to the team's trust. In summary, model professional courtesy.
3. Celebrate One Another's Successes - Everyone has an easy time finding problems, but leaders must help one another find the small victories along the way and celebrate them together. Leaders that work together are always helping one another celebrate what's going right and motivating one another to stay the course.
4. Learn from Mistakes - Mistakes are a regular part of learning. Interdependent leaders support each other as they identify mistakes and use them as learning tools for improvement rather than a catalyst for placing blame. Managers view mistakes as a problem; leaders see mistakes as the point where improvement can begin.
5. Have Fun - Leading is hard work, but it can be the most rewarding work if you lead with a joyful heart. Leading with a joyful heart demonstrates that you appreciate the opportunity and the challenge that you have been given. Having fun is contagious and motivates everyone around you. Fun increases productivity and creativity. Most important adding fun to the mix during difficult times makes the work a lot more enjoyable for all.
When all members of a leadership team employ the strategies listed above, teams excel. They excel because the leaders model how the organization must stay focused on the mission and vision. They stay focused by committing to the team's goal and by doing whatever it takes to support one another in achieving the goal. Leaders who work interdependently show the rest of the staff the benefits of working interdependently also.