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Creating a foundation for effective team leadership

Creating a foundation for effective team leadership
The questions that we often receive during our lectures and seminars are: "how is leadership established in climbing teams and who takes the decisions during your Himalaya expeditions? What are the success factors in the leadership of the teams that you work with in the mountains?
Leadership in the mountains is key for our survival and our team success. In Organizations this is similar. Leadership is key in maintaining continuity of the business. Leadership in our mountaineering teams is based on situational leadership. How does this compare with teams that we have worked with in organizations? You could say that, in the mountains, we prefer to operate in a self directed or a self managed team. In most organizations, leadership structures are common and institutionalized. For example, the chief executive officer, the chief operating officer and managing director.
You might ask, who takes the decisions when leadership is situational based? The high mountain environment is extremely unforgiving. There is no time for extensive meetings. To maximize our efficiency we work in small teams only. Decisions are being made in consensus. Decision making in the high mountains should be done quickly and effectively. At first this seems a contradiction. It is not. We have analyzed and discussed every possible scenario on forehand of our climb or expedition. The consensus is important because decisions do not only impact our success and failure on the mountain. Wrong decisions may lead to injury or death. Therefore, every decision must be supported by all team members.
In the mountain environment, at specific moments or tasks, the leadership will be switched from person to person. This sounds complex but in reality it isn’t. We have been working together in the mountain environment for years. We know each other, our strengths and weaknesses. So the switch will not require long discussions, it will be suggested or the initiative will just be taken by the leader of that moment. It is extremely important in this situation that all team members trust each other in their leadership, this will allow for seamless switches in the lead. This actually boils down to trust in and respect for each other’s skills and personal flexibility to adapt.
We ask ourselves the following questions to lead our teams successfully:


  • Do I inspire my team members in reaching our goals


  • Do I support my team members in reaching the team and personal goals


  • Do I add value to improve and develop the team?


  • Do I lead by example?
When we talk about team goals, it is of crucial importance that personal goals are aligned with the team goals. If this is not the case it will seriously undermine the effectiveness of the team. We have experienced that when you use the four questions as a guideline for the direction your leadership it builds and strengthens your leadership naturally within the team. The shared experiences, trust and alignment of personal and teams goals are the success factors for situational leadership in our environment. The four questions give focus and keep you completely in line with the team goals and personal goals, creating a foundation for effective situational leadership.
William van Meegdenburg and Melvin Redeker
William and  Melvin  combine their experience and knowledge which results in the improvement programs for people, teams and organizations supporting them to reach their maximum potential. If you would like to know more about their workshops and seminars, read more
Recommended reading:alt
- Gary Hamel - The future of management
- Peter Fokkens - 5 Questions for new leaders
- Harvard - the leadership team - complementary strengths or conflicting agenda's