Background Note | HBS Case Collection | September 2013 (Revised August 2015)

Leadership and Teaming

by Ethan Bernstein


Small differences in the leadership of teams can have large consequences for the success of their efforts. Many initiatives fail not because of a fatal error in judgment or insufficient ideas, knowledge, motivation, or capabilities to deliver a solution. They fail because, as is so often heard, "we needed to be more of a team to succeed," "we weren't a sufficiently high-performing team," or "our team suffered from a lack of leadership." In a world where most problems faced by organizations are too complex for a single individual to tackle alone, leadership frequently involves designing, launching, and managing teams. And yet teams are fickle. Even as teams become more common at all levels of organizations, a shocking number of them fail to live up to their potential or even to deliver at all. Teams remain the most flexible and powerful units of learning, change, and performance in most organizations but require effective leadership to succeed. This note summarizes the conditions leaders can create to increase the chances of creating, managing, and participating in successful teaming environments.

Keywords: teams; teaming; leadership and managing people; leadership; Team Effectiveness; Team Performance; Team Design; team leadership; Teamwork; Team Process; Team Function; Team Launch; 60/30/10 Rule; Team Boundary; Distribution of Leadership Authority; Self-Managed Teams; Virtual Teams; Unbounded Teams; Acts of Leadership; Execution Teams; Decision Making Teams; Creativity Teams; Team Size; Task Design; Team Timeline; Team Roles; Team Representation; diversity; Team Familiarity; Collective Intelligence; Team Stages of Development; Team Coaching; Performance Pressure; X-Teams; Team Focus; Interaction; Management Teams; Managerial Roles; Management Systems; Management Style; Management Skills; Management Practices and Processes; Organizational Design; Organizational Structure; Performance Effectiveness; Performance Efficiency; Performance Productivity; Groups and Teams; Networks; Social Psychology; Behavior; Conflict and Resolution; Creativity; Social and Collaborative Networks; Satisfaction; Prejudice and Bias; Power and Influence; Personal Characteristics; Familiarity; Cognition and Thinking; Attitudes; Projects; Organizational Culture; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Leadership Development; Leadership Style; Leading Change; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Knowledge Sharing; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Innovation and Management; Innovation Leadership; Design; Interpersonal Communication; Accommodations Industry; Accounting Industry; Advertising Industry; Aerospace Industry; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Air Transportation Industry; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Auto Industry; Banking Industry; Battery Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Bicycle Industry; Biotechnology Industry; Chemical Industry; Communications Industry; Computer Industry; Construction Industry; Consulting Industry; Consumer Products Industry; Distribution Industry; Education Industry; Electronics Industry; Employment Industry; Energy Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Fashion Industry; Financial Services Industry; Fine Arts Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Forest Products Industry; Forestry Industry; Green Technology Industry; Health Industry; Industrial Products Industry; Information Industry; Information Technology Industry; Insurance Industry; Journalism and News Industry; Legal Services Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; Mining Industry; Motion Pictures and Video Industry; Motorcycle Industry; Music Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry; Public Administration Industry; Public Relations Industry; Publishing Industry; Pulp and Paper Industry; Rail Industry; Real Estate Industry; Retail Industry; Rubber Industry; Semiconductor Industry; Service Industry; Shipping Industry; Sports Industry; Steel Industry; Technology Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Tourism Industry; Transportation Industry; Travel Industry; Utilities Industry; Video Game Industry; Web Services Industry; Asia; North and Central America; South America; Atlantic Ocean; Central Asia; Europe; Latin America; Middle East; Oceania; West Indies;


Bernstein, Ethan. "Leadership and Teaming." Harvard Business School Background Note 414-033, September 2013. (Revised August 2015.)