Free «Leadership of Teams in Pressurized Situations» Essay Sample


Ability to work as a team is vital in the organizational performance, and leadership is an essential factor in team effectiveness (Belbin 2010). In an organization, a team is given various responsibilities and as a result, its dynamics often change significantly. It is realized when a team has to operate under pressure to meet deadlines or get solutions (Yammarino, Mumford, Connelly & Dionne 2010). It is vital for a team leader to recognize pressure and find ways of making a team deliver the intended results. Heidi Gardner, a Harvard Business School professor, found out that when teams operate under pressure, they start giving credence to generalists’ opinions, and dismiss the opinions of specialists due to their detail (Gilbert 2010). Consequently, a team ignores critical information which would have been essential in its operations. When operating under pressure, a team only aims at getting a job done. Therefore, team members have a tendency to keep out nonconforming opinions and new information (Gilbert 2010). It gets to a point where junior members, who are mostly specialists, reduce their contribution, while senior members, mostly generalists, increase their contribution (Gilbert 2010).

A team leader has the responsibility of identifying when his or her team is acting under pressure. Leaders should identify warning signs that employees are either stressed or working under pressure (Klein, Ziegert, Knight & Xiao 2006). In most cases, teams have ample resources and time to complete their task due to the importance of projects. However, they fail to effectively utilize resources and time. Whenever the stakes in a given project are high, team members develop anxiety. It impacts on their performance, which, in turn, affects the final results (Gardner 2012). Team leaders should hold meetings with individual team members to reflect and hold open discussions. They should also emphasize on learning, as opposed to mere completion of tasks. It is evident that teams require non-traditional leadership to deal with the dynamics. It is for this purpose that the current paper seeks to delve into the problem of leadership of teams under pressurized situations.

Problem Definition

Team performance can increase with the input of proper leadership. Teams sometimes operate under pressure. Numerous factors lead to the increased pressure in teams. A team leader has the responsibility of ensuring that team members deal with pressure, and give the intended results. There are many instances when people crumble under pressure, or they may not offer the best results. Understanding team leadership is vital. Furthermore, it is necessary to identify the approaches taken by team leaders, as they deal with pressure among employees. Identification of approaches used by team leaders in pressurized situations will add to the available literature. It will also assist other team leaders in identifying ways that have been used by other leaders.


  1. To conduct critical review of literature on team work and leadership;
  2. To gather and analyze information on leadership skills and practices that motivate team members in pressurized situations to:
    1. Work together
    2. Express accountability and leadership

Literature Review


The term “team” denotes two or more individuals who focus on the achievement of a mutual goal or objective. Individuals who make up a team are people who, to a given extent, have common goals, and share a social identity (Klein, Ziegert, Knight & Xiao 2006). They depend on one another to complete tasks properly and realize goals as well as take up diverse roles in a team. They are embedded in a large societal or institutional context, which influences them (Reynolds 2012). Team members take up different roles to ensure that different duties are undertaken concurrently, and experts in the fields take on them. Teams have to utilize elaborate communication and coordination systems to foster competitiveness and offer competitive advantage (Buchanan & Huczynski 2010). In recent past, there has been increased used of teamwork in organizations, so as to improve performance outcomes. Teams assist in the reduction of costs and improvement of productivity and quality. Team members also get psychological benefits, including intrinsic motivation and self-belief (Meyer 2011).

Sanchez and Yorrebaso (2009) discuss teamwork and state that among the key elements of a team is the empowerment that they receive from their organization. They get empowered to attain the organizational goals and conform to the goals business units in which they operate. They are accorded the relevant skills, knowledge, resources, power, and information to conduct their activities in a manner that they will make a difference (Sanchez & Yorrebaso 2009). Stare (2012) has a focus on performance in team definition. As teams have a mutual purpose, performance is integrated into the purpose, and every member of a team is held mutually accountable. Stare (2012) also stresses that a team should have a small number of individuals who possess complimentary skills, and have a direct interaction. It assists in differentiating teams from work groups. In work groups, the members conduct similar tasks as groups, but coordination and integration is not necessary.

Ocvirk and Trunk (2009) focus on a group as a more inclusive term than a team. Although there are some differences, the terms are, often, interchanged. Teams are used in organizations in numerous ways. However, a team has a purpose that it aims at accomplishing, and it is a part of the organizational strategic goal. The purpose behind the creation of a team relates to the challenges associated with its design and management. In organization, teams can be formal and part of the organizational chart or they can be informal structures made up of individuals from different formal structures in the organization (Manz, Pearce & Sims 2009). Maginn (2003) discusses various aspects of making efficient teams. Teams have numerous challenges that lead to the increase of pressure and stress among team members. Since most teams have representatives from different fields of expertise, it is vital to ensure that they coordinate. At times, some members may feel as though they are superior to others. It leads to pressure and stress in a team, which has adverse effects on performance and output (Maginn 2003).


It is an indispensable determiner of its performance. It is becoming a requirement for groups to operate in multifaceted situations where leadership and productivity are interrelated (Day, Gronn & Salas 2004). In addition, the relationship between a team’s performance and its leadership impacts on its evolution and future. Therefore, team leadership is a team input that affects mediating variables and results in productivity, which impacts future inputs (Mathieu, Maynard, Rapp & Gilson 2008). Morgeson, Derue and Karam (2010) focus on the importance of team leadership in relation to the satisfaction of team needs with the ultimate goal of fostering its effectiveness. Team leadership is the capability to coordinate and direct the activities of other members of a team, make assessment, assign tasks, and develop skills, competency and knowledge (Edmondson 2003). Leadership has to motivate team members, and ensure that the atmosphere is positive (Morgeson, Derue & Karam 2010). Schaffer, Lei and Reyes (2008) make an integration of frameworks to develop a framework, which relates to the leadership and dynamics in teams. The model is similar to the one developed by Zaccaro, Heinen and Shuffler (2009), which is based on two suppositions. First, the influence of efficient leadership depends on fostering integration, connection, and coherence within a team. The leadership develops conditions, which permits team members to collaborate.

The effect of leadership on the efficacy and performance of a team is facilitated by its effects on the relations of a team. Different researchers have focused on team leadership in relation to individual and organizational theories. Williams (2014) reviews the leadership theory in four approaches, which include trait, behavioral, contingency, and situational approaches. It assists in the identification of the kinds of leaders that are likely to be successful and the factors that control the effectiveness of leadership. Team leadership also emanates from various bases, and there are structures of team leadership (Morgeson, Derue & Karam 2010). Team leadership exists in two scopes. First, there is formal, which relates to the official leadership of a team, and casual leadership. Second, there is locus, which entails a leader’s post, internally or externally from a team. The behavior, actions and mindset of a leader are essential to a team’s performance. Effective leadership involves promotion of team erudition, alteration, and team leaders. It is also necessary to understand how traditional leaders, such as transformational leaders, operate in a team context. Team leaders engage in various activities to ensure effectiveness among team members (Sims, Lazzara, Salas & Burke 2009).

Approaches of Leadership in Teams

A leader is a person who influences the associates. As specified by Prabhakar (2008), there are five vital responsibilities of a team leader. A leader needs to be an initiator, model, negotiator, listener, and coach. As earlier indicated, Williams (2014) focuses on leadership in various aspects. The trait approach of leadership is founded on the conviction that good leaders possess the given characteristics. The focus is on the traits of operative leaders. They are deemed to possess qualities, such as rectitude, self-confidence, flexibility, ingenuity, and astuteness (Williams 2014). The behavioral approach assumes that successful leaders behave in a similar manner. It is possible to change the behavior of an individual. Hence, behavioral approach focuses on leader training. The behavior of a leader focuses on the jobs and responsibilities, or people and interpersonal relationships (Williams 2014). The contingency perspective combines situational and behavioral characteristics. It determines the situational variables that favor the effectiveness of leadership. It has been identified that being a team member has a role in the determination of individuals’ confidence, and fosters motivation (Meyer 2011).

When a team works under pressure, the leadership should handle the situation carefully to avoid failure. Mathieu et al. (2008) recommends that team leaders should undertake various roles when their team is under pressure. It is essential for a team to see a leader acting calm when there is pressure. They imitate their leader. A leader should know team members so as to understand their abilities and skills (Mathieu et al. 2008). It permits the leader to have realistic prospects and targets from a team. It also enables employees to be guided appropriately in relation to the completion of a team. Regular feedback relating to performance assists members to understand their requirements. Therefore, they perform optimally to avoid failure to meet the deadlines (Ocvirk & Trunk 2009).

It is vital for a team leader to ensure that there is cohesion among team members. It reduces anxiety and fosters unity to avoid unnecessary competition. The approach, taken to complete the tasks, should support teamwork. As a preliminary step, prior to having stressful situations, team members should be trained in simulated stress and pressurized situations. It prepares them for the actual pressurized conditions. Therefore, team leaders should ensure that their members are ready to operate in such situations (Ocvirk & Trunk 2009). Morgeson, DeRue and Karam (2010) reflect on the effective of leaders under pressure. They should not panic and should express confidence, so as to improve the confidence of a team. Positive response from a leader influences positivity among employees. It binds a team to ensure that they do not submit into the pressure. Such leaders can also use pressure effectively, so as to challenge the associates to their limit. When a leader enables employees to understand how to act under pressure, they make their best contribution (Morgeson, DeRue & Karam 2010).


Organizations are opting to conduct most of their operations through teamwork. Teams have numerous responsibilities and at times, there is an increased pressure. Team members are expected to meet tight deadlines and tackle numerous problems. As a result, team leaders have to behave in a way that enables them to manage employees under pressure. A leader has to identify when a team is under pressure. To enable a team to perform adequately, a leader should hold meeting with team members to find ways of dealing with pressure. Different authors and researchers have identified approaches used to recognize effective leaders who can operate under pressure and ensure that their teams meet assigned goals. A leader should enable team members to understand the situation and use pressure positively. Lastly, a team can strive to attain optimum results if pressure is well managed and utilized.

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