“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Babe Ruth

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to promote team unity. This does not mean that there is not disagreement or even periodic conflict on the team or within the organization. To be a unifier, the leader brings people together around a vision, a mission, or a project. Team unity drives results.

I recently observed a leader giving multiple speeches. I was astounded at the level of arrogance and the clear attempts to divide the audience. The arrogance and divisiveness was not only manifested in what the leader saidLets work together, but also in the body language. Why a leader uses divisive behavior perplexes me and I can only attribute it to sheer narcissism. In this case the leader is doomed to failure or, at a minimum, at risk of losing many key people. Unfortunately, this leader was doing the opposite of creating team unity.

A leader’s behavior either promotes unity or division. Consider these 4 behaviors to promote team unity and reap the benefits:

  • Create a vision that team members understand and rally behind. Have team members participate in setting the team vision when possible. Team unity is the result of the team developing an achievable and meaningful vision.
  • Respect differences of opinion. Listen to team members, consider their ideas, and have a dialog with those who differ. Explain your position respectfully and give them an opportunity to express their position. Be aware of your body language, sometimes it may speak louder than words. Never denigrate those who have a different opinion or idea if they are sincere in their beliefs. Speaking ill of those with whom you have a difference of opinion is divisive and only reflects poorly on you as a leader. You can achieve team unity even when not all agree with your decision or position, if you others feel they are heard and their ideas are respected.
  • Build trust within the team. Trust is an important component of unified teams. Provide opportunities for team members to get to know you and each other on a deeper basis through team events and activities. Manage trust issues in a timely manner and look to create opportunities for team members to interact and build their relationships.
  • Use positive behaviors to influence others to promote team unity of the shared vision. Positive influencing tactics include logical persuasion, appealing to values, consulting, and simply stating what you want done and why. If you use negative influencing tactics such as manipulation, intimidation or threats, it is divisive even to others on the team who observe these behaviors.

Leaders who seek to divide, for whatever reason, may think they will succeed. After all, they are playing to their allies; but in reality, no one admires divisive behaviors and the leader will quickly lose much of their support.

What kind of leader are you? Are you a divider who plays individuals against each other or, are you a unifier who leads to the shared vision, builds trust, and considers all opinions? Share how you contribute to team unity.

Ben McDonald

Ben is a leadership and talent development thought leader. He has worked with executive teams in over 20 countries and multiple industries growing and inspiring talent and organizations to achieve their best.

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