Book Review - November 2018

A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results

Book by Paul Gustavson  and Stewart Liff

Review by Derik Bordon 

Organizations often struggle with employees making decisions on their own because either the employee does not have the knowledge or understanding to make informed decisions or leaders don’t trust the employees to make decisions on their own. The lack of knowledge or trust can lead to employees feeling as though they are being micromanaged and leaders feeling as though their workforce is not competent. Instead of the environment where the supervisor tries to get everyone to produce, the environment should be one in which everyone works together, takes the initiative, assumes ownership, is willing to deal with difficult issues, and accepts accountability for the team’s results.

A Team of Leaders helps to address these concerns by providing a framework that leaders can to nurture the leadership potential in their employees and build a self-managed team of employees working toward a common goal, whose members identify, plan, and manage their daily activities and work under limited or no supervision.

How do you build a team of leaders? The authors developed the Five-Stage Team Development Model which identifies the five distinct stages of team development:

  • Stage One: Being Directive – team members receive assignments and follow orders. Leader’s role is traditional with one-on-one interactions with each member of the team.
  • Stage Two: Journey Starts – employees begin to interact with each other and start to learn new team processes. Supervisor begins to coach and develop the team and the team members.
  • Stage Three: Progress – leadership begins to be shared with a few team members step up providing leadership on tasks and assignments. Supervisor continues to lead on most of the leadership activities and providing coaching to team members who have assumed leadership responsibilities.
  • Stage Four: Almost There – leadership is shared with most team members taking responsibility for most of the leadership activities. Leader plays the role of coach to team members, becomes involves with high-value work outside the team, and begins transitioning difficult people issues to the team.
  • Stage Five: Everyone a Leader – all leadership tasks are led by the team members, many leading multiple activities and leaders on all issues, and performance is pushed to the next level. Leader becomes advisor to the team, remains the person to team reports to for accountability, and contributes to the organization by focusing on higher-level work and managing multiple teams.

To build a team of leaders, you must consider the following key principles discussed in the remainder of the book:

  • Team design – for everyone to become a leader, the team’s management systems and design choices must be designed, aligned, and properly implemented.
  • Team processes – all your processes must support the goal of making everyone a leader.
  • Team Value Creation Model – people are much more likely to become leaders if they understand the value they contribute to the team.
  • Developing and managing knowledge – to build leaders, you must determine the knowledge they need, decide how to acquire it, and then manage its distribution.
  • Visual management – visual management, also known as visual performance management, is a program that uses the senses to reinforce the previously described principles, drive performance, and build future leaders.

The main takeaway from the book is that building a team of leaders cannot be done overnight. Leaders must be patient and understand that it can years for a team to progress from one stage to the next. Understanding which stage your team is at today can help you develop a strategy for moving your team to the next level.

You can complete the A Team of Leaders Assessment to determine where your team is at in the Five-Stage Team Development Model and receive a free leadership report.

You can also download a free chapter from the book and find other resources by visiting

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