How leadership works

Put simply, and this article will be different to most of my other work, as I want to focus on an innovative leadership style in this article – leadership works when it is about empowerment, group cohesiveness, and individual learning orientation. 

These three elements of leadership were studied by Mutonyi et al. (2020), who were looking at how leaders can inspire creativity, initiative, and innovative thinking.  

Let’s unpack what they found:   

1. Leadership works when teams are empowered 

We have all heard that empowered teams are high performing teams. But what does it really mean to empower a team member or a team? In essence, empowerment is about giving a team autonomy for their work. Providing team members with the responsibility and the accountability to contribute. And to contribute with their best selves. Or their whole selves. That is, bringing their psychological self to work, not just their physical self. 

When team members bring their psychology to work, not just their physiology, they are able to be psychologically empowered by their leaders. Psychological empowerment focuses on the micro level (individuals) and refers to intrinsic task motivation engendered by meaning, choice, competence, and impact.  

In other words, empowering team members is about providing motivating work, that means something to the individual and to the team, where the team member has some choice about how the work gets done. And over time, they develop competence, and have even more impact. And they come up with innovative ideas on how to do things better or smarter. 

Which all takes a concerted effort from their leader. 

Psychologically empowering team members is how leadership works. 

2. Leadership works when teams are cohesive 

Scholars have defined a cohesive work group as one that “sticks together”, is bonded into a whole and the members experience feelings of solidarity, harmony, and commitment (Mudrack, 1989, p. 39). And these feelings relate not to the type or variety of work that gets done. They relate to how the work gets done. And the quality of the interactions and relationships that are critical to creating a high performing and innovative team. 

When you think of a high performing team, it is easy to focus only on the team outputs, and how to measure those. With KPI’s or KRA’s or whatever other measurement tool you use. But team performance is never solely about what work gets done. Here at TGG we have surveyed many teams, and most teams tell us that they have a high level of output. Some of those teams admit that their internal relationships are not great. 

Without a cohesive team, quality outputs are not sustainable. Because it is only a matter of time until the wheels fall off. 

So when you think of a high performing team, think about the what (outputs). But also think about the how (cohesiveness). Without a high level of both, your team won’t get to high performing, and if it does, it won’t stay there.  

Developing a cohesive team and in innovative high performing team is how leadership works. 

3. Leadership works when team members are learning consistently 

This research article, and like many before it, unpack the concept of transformational leadership. As it should. This is a great way to lead others, with a focus on transforming the team, and the people in it. By creating more leaders.  

A little-known concept, though, that is just as relevant as transformational leadership, is transformative learning. This is a process whereby team members are challenged not only to learn new skills, but also to unlearn outdated ones. Skills that don’t serve them. Skills that don’t serve the business.  

“Transformative learning is one theory of learning, and particularly focuses on adult education and young adult learning. Transformative learning is sometimes called transformation learning and focuses on the idea that learners can adjust their thinking based on new information.” This concept was developed by Jack Mezirow, and is a game changer for leaders who are able to lean into providing a learning experience and a learning environment for their teams. 

Developing a learning culture is how leadership works. 

In summary, leadership works when it is empowering, teams are cohesive, and learning is transformative. 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

UPGRADE your Mindset
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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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