Project Management

Leading a High-Performing Team

Leaders develop their teams. High-performing team is made up of high-achieving individuals that share a same vision. Begin with who you have and where you are. Consider making a list of your talents, skills, and abilities. Discuss or discover ways for your team members to put what they’ve learned into practice in order to reinforce their learning and progress. Some leaders may be afraid of losing their people if they continue to expand. Why would you want them to grow complacent or stagnant? People are happy and their performance is higher when they are making progress.

A team leader should consider the following when determining how to lead a high-performing team:

  1. Company culture
  2. Organizational structure
  3. Team development stages
  4. Different leadership styles
  5. Team cultivation

Company culture is reflected in company policies and procedures, work ethic, work hours, and team members’ shared values and norms, all of which impact team dynamics. A team leader with a highly participative style will likely run into problems in an organization that is very hierarchical, while a team leader with a very authoritarian style will find it difficult to operate in a participative organization. Leadership styles may also need to be adjusted based on the current stage of the project, but project leaders should consistently cultivate an atmosphere of teamwork for leading a High-Performing Team.

Find below more about leading a high-performing team:

Company Culture Trumps Personal Leadership Styles:


Company culture is a very strong and pervasive force. Even if a project manager’s leadership style has been successful at one company, it may not be successful at another. A project management team leader must consider whether their personal leadership style complements the overall company culture. When the two are in conflict, they must consider how they can modify their personal styles to be more compatible with the overall company culture.

Organizational Structure May Limit Leadership Authority:


Just as company culture can be a barrier to project management team leadership success, so can the organizational structure. Project managers working in a functional organization, for example, must expect to have limited authority over the team. In this environment, authority resides with the functional manager. Although leadership cannot be exerted through authority in this type of organization, there may be other sources of power that a project manager can seek to use, such as expertise or respect.


From an organizational perspective, a company may be structured as a “functional” organization, a “project-oriented” organization, or a “matrix” organization.


In a functional organization, a hierarchy exists where each employee has one clear superior. Employees are grouped by specialty, such as production, engineering, or marketing. In this environment, the project manager has limited authority over the team and defers to the functional manager.


In a project-oriented organization, most of the company’s resources are involved in project work. Unlike a functional organization, the project manager has a high degree of authority over the team.


Matrix organizations display a mix of functional and project-oriented characteristics. In a balanced matrix organization, the authority level will be low to moderate.


In a weak matrix organization, the project manager will have limited authority over the team.


In a strong matrix organization, the project manager will have a moderate to a high degree of authority over the team.

Leaders Should Recognize Team Development Stages:


Normal team development stages can have an effect on project output. The Forming stage is less productive as the team begins to understand the requirements of the project. Then, time and resources are often consumed as the team works through conflicts in the Storming stage. Once in the Norming phase, project work picks up. Project managers must recognize this pattern and modify their project plans and schedules accordingly.

Different Leadership Styles Are Needed for Different Team Development Stages:


Successful project team leaders are flexible in many aspects including leadership styles. In the Forming and Storming stages, it is crucial for the team leader to behave in a directive way. As the team evolves into the Norming, Performing, and Adjourning phases, the project management leader’s style should become more participative and engaging.

Teams Must Be Cultivated:


Teams don’t develop simply because several people are designated to work together. Project management team leaders need to proactively create a shared understanding and vision of what the team needs to accomplish. Team-building activities will often help cultivate the atmosphere necessary to transform a work group into a team.

Setting Project Boundaries

All teams, including Agile and adaptive ones, can benefit from using an empirical process. This sets the boundaries for a project but allows new work processes to develop, which means that teams can work openly and collaboratively within project boundaries. Team members should experiment with new methods of achieving results, with limited stakeholder interference. This is most effective when team members are co-located and when lessons learned are regularly shared, so that teams can learn and adapt as they explore new approaches to problem solving.

Recommended for you What Is a Team? , The Tuckman Model , What is AGILE?

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