How to elect the best team leader

The federal election is finally behind us, but not without months of bitter debates, media frenzies and political parodies. If this is how leaders get elected, perhaps we’d all be better off with a nice benevolent tyrant. So is electing a leader really a good option for the workplace?

The short answer is yes. A team leader who is elected to their position by the team, rather than appointed by the manager, can yield real rewards in terms of morale, productivity and staff engagement. However there are some pitfalls that need to be avoided and some key ingredients that need to be present in how they are elected.

1.    It’s not a popularity contest

A team election needs to be a structured process where the candidates are consciously and transparently assessed against key criteria including technical expertise, interpersonal skills, managerial ability and personal performance.

2.    No one is left behind

Majority elections run the risk of leaving individuals out in the cold and dissatisfied. Instead, use a consensus model that requires unanimous agreement and provides opportunity for discussion about each person’s concerns and reservations.

3.    What’s my mandate?

There’s nothing worse than being elected to a job without a mandate about what that job is. The team needs to establish what they need from their leader and how they need it to happen.

4.    Regular reviews

An elected leader needs to be reviewed against their KPIs and the team needs to have regular opportunities to address issues. The same team that elected the leader should have the power to remove them.

Team leaders are still team members. The difference is that their job is to inclusively manage the process by which the team functions. It should be clear that leadership does not convey authority so much as responsibility, or the team will soon resent their chosen leader and depose them.

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