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Teams and Their Leaders

A Communication Network Perspective

J. David Johnson

This book provides the first truly comprehensive treatment of three topics that have traditionally been treated separately: teamwork, leadership, and communication. Teamwork has become central to the operation of the modern organization. People from diverse backgrounds culturally, professionally, and demographically must work together to develop the well-rounded decision making needed for organizations to survive in our modern economy. Leadership, and relatedly management, have more traditionally been the focus of organizational operations.

While it is easy to rule by dicta, it is much more difficult to establish a framework in which true teamwork is possible. Teamwork is a very fragile thing. The minute managers start becoming too directive a slippery slope is started in which one's followers, perhaps better cast as team members, constantly look to them for direction and approval rather than acting on their own best instincts. Communication plays a central role in resolving these tensions. Messaging is central to traditional management functions, while providing a communication network structure that enables action is a more subtle, but longer lasting function of leaders. All three processes, teaming, leading, and communicating, must act in concert for the many benefits of teamwork to be realized.

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11: Summing Up


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We started this work by introducing the three major topics that we have focused on: teamwork, leadership, and communication. Each of these topics has been the subject of a voluminous literature. Uniquely, this work attempts to integrate all three which have typically been the focus of independent inquiry. Obviously leadership has been a preoccupation of social scientists and historians for centuries. In simpler times a focus on great men (SIC) and their impact on society may have been appropriate, but increasingly the world has become a very complex place as have the organizations that dominate the contemporary scene. The pace of change and the increasing complexity of our institutions have brought to the fore the necessity for looking beyond the skills and capabilities of one individual to see how the talents of many can be applied to today’s problems. This has led to a focus on teamwork. Unfortunately teamwork and leadership are often at odds with each other introducing tensions and paradoxes we will explore more fully in this chapter. Both leadership and teamwork require communication, albeit perhaps in different forms. Leaders rely on messaging to mobilize their followers, while the communication network structure of teams, as we have seen, is central to their effectiveness.

Of course, not all teams have the same characteristics. In Chapter 2 we used four properties, opaqueness, composition, internalities, and externalities, to ← 297 | 298 → classify teams. We described the different implications of these properties for leadership and teamwork in work/action...

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