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Team Leadership in the New Workplace

Team Leadership in the New Workplace

The role of the team leader is unfamiliar in many agencies. Are team leaders part of management or are they part of the bargaining unit? How are they classified? And what exactly do they do? The answer to all those questions is - It depends. It depends on how the agency has defined the role of its teams, its team leaders, and its supervisors.

One example of how an agency has clarified the team leader role comes from the Department of Labor. Labor's Office of Human Resources has published a guidance paper entitled, "Team Leadership in the New Workplace" that is intended to offer a basis for mutual understanding within the Department of team leadership responsibilities. This paper provides an explanation for certain terms and concepts dealing with teams and offers three team leadership models. It also defines training needs for team leaders and team members and the orientation needs of all employees in regard to the changes that Labor plans for reinvention. Although specifically written for one cabinet Department, most of the concepts presented can apply Governmentwide.


The paper provides a definition of "team leader," but is careful to emphasize that this definition is only an example that differences within the Department will bring about great variations on the actual duties and functions of team leaders. They offer this definition: "An employee who facilitates his/her team's processes by working collaboratively with the team to ensure that they complete their tasks effectively and efficiently, by maintaining good working relationships, and by coordinating with the manager and others on goals, priorities, team needs, and achievements." The knowledge, skills, and abilities required for team leaders include subject matter expertise, facilitation, problem-solving, team-building, leadership, motivation, innovation and flexibility, knowledge of quality tools, planning and organizing, coaching, and counseling.

Three Models

The paper describes three models of team leadership and compares those models with the traditional supervisory role model. Their models range from a quasi-supervisory team leader of a team in a traditionally structured organization, through an intermediate leadership role of a semi-autonomous team, to a leader of an empowered team. The paper includes an easy-to-read matrix that outlines each leadership model with respect to the leader's role, position classification, FLSA coverage, bargaining unit status, and performance management responsibilities. Performance management is further broken out into establishment of elements and standards, progress reviews, appraisal responsibility, awards and recognition, dealing with performance problems, and misconduct.

Training and Development

The Department of Labor recommends specific types of team-related training for their employees. For team leaders specifically, the recommended courses include:

  • how to promote inclusion and diversity.
  • how to solve problems and resolve conflict.
  • how to insure and promote continuous development of the staff.
  • how to promote partnership and cooperation at the worksite.
  • how to facilitate group processes.
  • how to communicate effectively.

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