How to pick a leader in an ad hoc team

Posted on Posted in General, Meetings

Training seminar, volunteer event, reality show competition, plane crash on a desert island…

From time to time, you may find yourself on a short lived ad hoc team, often with people you don’t know very well. When you do, here are four problems you’re likely to encounter:

  1. No clear leader emerges. Without one, decision making is going to be difficult, design by committee is inevitable.
  2. A leader emerges too soon. One premature dominant vision squashes diversity of thought.
  3. The wrong leader emerges. The person who grabs the wheel isn’t necessarily the best driver.
  4. The presumed leader isn’t accepted as such. Who made her boss? some might ask.

Leaders shouldn’t emerge, they should be chosen. Here’s a process.

  1. Isolate. Allow everyone to spend a little time apart. Each person should write down their vision for how to complete the project.
  2. Present. Have everyone come together and let those interested in being the leader, present their visions to the group
  3. Elect. Formally allow people to vote for the leader they believe has the best vision.

With this process not only will you have a formal democratically elected leader, but you’ll have the visions of everyone from the group, uncorrupted by groupthink. The leader can use these ideas to adapt his plan.

Of course, it can take guts to propose a process like this. Ironically, it takes a leader.

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