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Leadership: What Makes or Breaks a Team!

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

As I sit in my Incident Command Post where I have spent the better part of the last three months, I am reflecting upon the City of El Segundo All-Hazards Incident Management Team and I am pondering how this has evolved into, not only a high functioning team, but a family. Over the course of COVID-19 and civil unrest incidents, the team has melded into a family. How has this transpired? How has this team become such a dedicated group of individuals, equally willing to support their teammates as much as they are willing to support the incident?

My first answer is leadership! Not my leadership. I may have had a hand in setting up the original framework. I may have had a hand in setting up the training. I may have had a hand in arranging the way the team is incorporated into the city structure. But the real reason is the leadership within the team. The Incident Commander has been a cornerstone of leadership for the team. He is open-minded and servant leader oriented. He has set the tone for the team and allowed each team member to implement their training and explore their creative curiosities about their position.

The team members themselves are the other half of that successful leadership. Each one of the team members is a leader in their own right. Each one of the team members committed to the larger objectives of the team while simultaneously committed to fulfilling their specific roles and responsibilities on the team. They are empathetic to one another and are supportive of one another at work and off-duty. Each of us knows, perhaps not all, but some of the challenges and concerns of the private lives of the teammates. Each one of us is personally invested in one another. Cohesion!

Yes, it is leadership that has brought this team together. It is leadership that has allowed innovation and creativity to proliferate on the team. It is leadership that has allowed the division of labor to work, each knowing that the other person is playing their part supporting the whole. If help is needed, there is no shame in asking and no animosity to supporting.

In my lifetime, I have seen teams work and I have seen teams fail. The teams that fail are usually because the climate is wrong. It does not let leadership flourish. It does not support one another. It does not let individual personality coexist with the team mentality. It is dictatorial and oppressive. It creates discord and resentment.

If you have the opportunity to create or be a part of a team, what will your teams legacy be? Will it lead or will it struggle? Will it be effective for the long-term or will it fold? Will it be a testament to the teammates or will it be a testament to the stress and complexities of the mission? Consider these questions and then ensure you lead-on!

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