Hot! Project Team Leadership

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In the 1970’s, Meredith Belbin did a study, through a business game, into teams and concentrated on the areas that separated those teams that were successful from those that weren’t. The study showed a number of interesting findings and these are as relevant in today’s fast-moving project environments as they were back then when technology didn’t feature in day-to-day business life.

The results showed that how the team is made up is crucial and that the differences in individual styles, their role within the team and the contribution they make were a foundation for building strength within the team.  We all want to be good team leaders but what type of leader are you?

A team that works well is one that is balanced with people who’s way of working within their roles is complementary to their colleagues.  Through this study, Belbin described two distinct types of leaders:

  • Solo Leader
    • Gets involved in everything within the project
    • Tries to mould their team to their way of thinking
    • Likes to gather admirers & people who don’t challenge
    • Tends to be explicit about what each team member should do in relation to the project objectives
  • Team Leader
    • Delegates roles to others in the team and doesn’t feel the need to micro-manage
    • Sees the value in the differences between team members
    • Seeks out talent within their team and isn’t threatened by those with ability and encourages the growth of personal strengths
    • Gives the vision for the project and lets team members act on that vision

In today’s working environments, it is quite clear that the most appropriate approach for project managers to adopt is the Team Leader, rather than the Solo Leader. Although the Team leadership approach is not, in fact, as may not be as natural as Solo leadership, Belbin’s view is that it can be learned through getting to grips with the essence of leadership and the qualities that are needed. In the rapidly changing and, increasingly during times of financial challenges, uncertain work environments of today no one person has all the answers to leadership.

Taking a Team leadership approach and basing this on the development of the both the strengths and the allowable weaknesses of all of the roles involved within the team will allow a more holistic and a more participative, style of leadership where all aspects of team working, solving problems, decision making and, indeed, innovation can grow through generally improved teamwork and increased team performance.


Jan Birley

Jan holds a PhD in computing and started out in software development and IT training. She built a strong career as a project and program manager focusing on IT in the Health Service sector. Jan specializes in taking greenfield and immature services/departments to effective business-as-usual operation and is currently responsible for the delivery of clinical assessment forms into a high profile clinical system. Jan has authored 100′s of articles on project-management related topics.


  1. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  2. It’s difficult to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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