Leadership capacity in teams


The present article examines the state of the field regarding leadership in teams. A perspective is advanced that
considers leadership as an outcome of team processes (e.g., teamwork and team learning) that provides resources
for better team adaptation and performance in subsequent performance cycles. This perspective complements but
does not replace the perspective of leadership as an input to team processes and performance. Specific facets of the
teaming cycle are reviewed, including the nature of teamwork and interventions designed to facilitate its
development, the role of team learning as different from individual learning, and relatively recent advances in
understanding shared and distributed leadership (DL). These components of team leadership are cast within an
emerging IMOI (inputs, mediators, outcomes, inputs) framework proposed for understanding the cyclical and
ongoing nature of teams in organizations.

  1. Leadership capacity in teams
    Our primary purpose is to review theory and research that is relevant to emerging perspectives on
    team leadership, as well as some of the foundational assumptions on the nature of teamwork, team
    learning, and distributed leadership (DL). One emerging perspective in particular that will be examined
    in detail involves expanding the conceptualization of team leadership beyond those attributes that are
    brought to a team by an individual (e.g., a formal or informal leader), to also consider leadership that
    emerges within a team. From the former and more traditional perspective, leadership is viewed primarily
    as an input to team processes and performance. It is conceptualized mainly in terms of individual leader
    skills, abilities, and behaviors or other leader attributes (e.g., charisma) that are thought to directly affect
    team processes and performance. From the latter perspective, however, leadership is considered as an
    outcome at the team level of analysis. Thus, the present perspective seeks to expand the focus to include
    ways that leadership is drawn from—instead of only added to—teams as a function of the processes
    associated with people working together to accomplish shared work (O’Connor & Quinn, 2004).
    Previous reviews of team leadership have focused almost exclusively on the traditional perspective of
    leadership as input to a team. In an earlier Leadership Quarterly Yearly Review article on team
    leadership, Zaccaro, Rittman, and Marks (2001) focused on the importance of functional leadership in
    teams. From this perspective, effective team leaders are those individuals who take on whatever role
    function is required in the team. Thus, a leader’s primary responsibility is to determine what functions
    are missing or not being handled adequately in the team and do it or get it done. Although a brief
    mention was made of possible team influences on leader effectiveness, the focus was primarily on the
    influence of the leader on team effectiveness. In this manner, it can be seen how a common or traditional
    perspective on team leadership emphasizes the contributions of an individual leader on group processes
    and outcomes.

More recently, a special issue of Group and Organization Management examined the topic of the
binterfaceQ of leadership and team processes (Zaccaro & Klimoski, 2002). In defining what they mean
by the term interface, Zaccaro and Klimoski note that this refers to bthe various ways that leadership
and team processes become intertwined so as to influence collective performanceQ (p. 6). At a more
basic level, this can refer to how leadership processes influence team performance or how team
processes influence leader effectiveness. At a higher level, however, leadership and team processes
can affect one another and be affected by prior team performance. At an even more complex level of
analysis, leadership and team processes can be binextricably integrated such that the boundaries of
each set of processes become fairly indistinctQ (p. 6). This conceptualization gets at the inherent
multilevel nature of team leadership, but does little to provide a conceptual distinction between
leadership and teamwork.
Whereas most approaches tend to focus on the more basic conceptualization, the present review will
widen the lens to also examine advances related to understanding the more complex levels of team
leadership. Specifically, we will review recent research and theory on topics related to how leadership
emerges or is drawn from teams as a function of working on and accomplishing shared work. We argue
that at this level, it is not so much that leadership and team processes become indistinguishable but that
leadership happens as an outcome of team processes, and this team-level leadership is then used as a
resource in future process and performance episodes (Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2001).
Some of the reasons to expand the lens on the meaning of team leadership stem from the increasing
popularity of teams as a way to organize the accomplishment of work in organizations. It is also needed
to more accurately portray the ongoing nature of leadership, performance, and results (Day, 2001). Fast
acting, temporary project teams have become commonplace in many organizations (Sundstrom,
McIntyre, Halhill, & Richards, 2000) with evidence suggesting that this team format represented fully
one third of all teams operating in the United States over a decade ago (Gordon, 1992). It is likely that
this percentage is larger today in that it is an increasingly common expectation for employees to be able
to work effectively in teams and often where there is no formally appointed leader (or where team
members are all at the same position level).
In situations in which there is no formal leader, how does leadership occur? One way is that an
individual or perhaps a couple of individuals emerge as the team leaders. This is a traditional perspective
that is grounded in the well-established leader emergence literature. But a different perspective is that all
team members participate in the leadership process, i.e., it is a shared, distributed process that creates a
capacity for versatility and adaptability. It is also possible for leadership to be an outcome of the
interrelationships of team members, rather than solely an individual input into the team. In short, we
believe that leadership can take many forms and our purpose is to elaborate on some of those forms that
have not been widely considered.

  1. Developing leadership in teams
    Central to this leadership-as-outcome perspective is that a team can build its leadership capacity
    through interacting with the goal of accomplishing shared work as long as the team is also intentional or
    purpose-driven around the learning and development that occurs (Fallesen, 2004). As reviewed in a
    subsequent section of this article, formal interventions can assist with the developmental process. In this
    manner, leadership capacity is a resource that a team can draw from in subsequent performance episodes.

An example of this can be found as a team begins to form. At an initial forming stage, a team is
composed of some number of relatively independent individuals who each have their own needs, goals,
and expected outcomes that motivate their behavior. Leadership processes can help align these individual
needs, goals, and expected outcomes across individuals—given that creating alignment is thought to be a
major leadership task (Van Velsor & McCauley, 2004)—with the result being a shift in the definition of
self from completely personal (bIQ) to at least partly collective (bweQ). Instead of a set of independent
(and possibly misaligned) individual identities, having the motivation and ability to conceive of
themselves in collective terms allows for the identification of the needs of the team, collective goals, and
expected team outcomes (Ellemers, de Gilder, & Haslam, 2004).
The creation of a collective (i.e., team-based) social identity serves as a potent leadership resource for
subsequent performance. This central identification with the team (bweQ) rather than the individual (bIQ)
allows for different forms of leadership to emerge and creates additional possibilities for participating in
leadership. It also is a resource for developing team social capital (Day, 2000) and as such, the leadership
of the team is developing rather than—or perhaps in addition to—the development of any individual
leader. As noted by O’Connor and Quinn (2004): bWhen leadership is viewed as a property of whole
systems, as opposed to solely the property of individuals, effectiveness in leadership becomes more a
product of those connections or relationships among the parts than the result of any one part of that
system (such as the leader)Q (p. 423).
For some time, there has been the theoretical perspective in the literature that views leadership as an
outcome of effective social processes and structure (e.g., Gibb, 1954; Salancik, Calder, Rowland, Leblebici,
& Conway, 1975); however, it has not been a very prevalent perspective. Nonetheless, there are benefits
associated with considering leadership as an outcome in that it is something created by the team, and in
particular, is reflected in the social capital of the team. Unlike human capital, in which the focus is on
developing individual knowledge, skills, and abilities, the emphasis with social capital is on building
networked relationships among individuals that enhance cooperation and resource exchange (e.g., connectivity).
Social capital is a resource that adds value to teams and organizations (Tsai & Ghoshal, 1998).

  1. Beyond I–P–O models of teams
    To better understand the different perspectives on leadership in teams, it might be helpful to take a
    step back and examine frameworks that have been proposed for understanding teaming and team
    performance. The most common of these is based on the influential work of Steiner (1972), McGrath
    (1984), and Hackman (1987), who described team performance in systems terms in which inputs to the
    team influence team processes, which lead in turn to measurable outcomes. This has come to be known
    as the I–P–O (input–process–output) model or framework (but certainly not a theory) of team
    performance. Inputs take the form of individual knowledge, skills, abilities, and other forms of human
    capital (e.g., a leader’s skills and experience). In the context of team leadership, a leader is typically
    thought to bring specific leadership skills and competencies to a team that are used in influencing core
    processes, such as transition (e.g., strategy formulation), action (e.g., coordination), and interpersonal
    processes (e.g., conflict management; Marks et al., 2001). Enhanced team processes are then causally
    associated with effective outcomes, such as team performance.
    An I–P–O model of team performance has served as a useful heuristic for conceptualizing the pivotal
    role of team processes for enhancing team performance and also in providing some guidance for team

research; however, it also has distinct limitations. Perhaps the most important of these is that the notion
of outcome implies a final end state. In terms of the ongoing nature of leadership, team processes, and
performance, a much better description than outcome might be that of a bsearch to catch reality in flightQ
where the legacy of the past is always shaping the future (Pettigrew, 1992, p. 10). In a similar vein, Ilgen,
Hollenbeck, Johnson, and Jundt (in press) point out that although team performance might be an output
at one time period, it is an input and part of the process leading to performance in a subsequent time
period. I–P–O frameworks also imply a single-cycle and linear path from inputs through outcomes, and
as noted by Igen et al., do not address the important role of feedback loops on team processes or the
dynamic nature of team performance.
In place of I–P–O, Ilgen et al. (in press) suggest an alternative IMOI model. Here, the bIQ still refers
to inputs; however, mediational influences (bMQ) replace processes because mediators are thought to
have greater explanatory power on outcomes (bOQ). The additional bIQ at the end of the acronym
addresses the important concept of feedback loops or bcyclical causal feedbackQ that is critical to
understanding how teams perform over time. The omission of the dashes between letters suggests that
the causal relations need not be linear, but that they could also be nonlinear or conditional. Although
the IMOI model may not have the same sort of simplistic appeal as an I–P–O framework, it does seem
to suggest a more realistic conceptualization of how a team develops over time as well as the dynamic
nature of team performance.
In terms of an emerging view of team leadership as an output of team processes, the IMOI
model helps to illustrate how team leadership can be considered to originate with individual skills
and behaviors, and through engaging in shared (process) work develop into team-level leadership
as an outcome that serves also as an input in the next stage of team development and
performance. Fig. 1 illustrates our view of the team leadership cycle in terms of building team
leadership capacity cast within the IMOI framework. In this model, individual team member
resources (knowledge, skills, and abilities brought to the team) contribute to the development of
teamwork, but are moderated by the resources and actions of a leader and formal interventions
used to develop teamwork. In this manner, formal interventions could substitute for leadership in
the development of teamwork; however, when formal interventions are not in place, the quality of
leadership is critical in teamwork development. In turn, teamwork in the form of key processes
(e.g., back-up behavior, performance monitoring, team orientation) contributes to team learning
(e.g., learning behavior of the team that is shaped by its learning orientation), which contributes to
creating team leadership capacity (e.g., cognitive, motivation, and affective states of sharedness,
distributedness, and connectivity of team members). This team leadership capacity (in the form of
social capital) is not only an output of the teaming cycle but also serves as input for future or
ongoing performing and directly influences the human capital of the team in subsequent
performance episodes.
Given that the model is focused on how team leadership capacity is developed and not on how well
teams perform, there is no explicit incorporation of team performance into the model. We view team
leadership capacity as an bemergent stateQ or a construct that develops over the life of the team; is
typically dynamic in nature; and varies as a function of team inputs, processes, and outcomes.
Although Ilgen et al. (in press) claim that emergent states impact team performance directly, Marks et
al. (2001) disagree: bEmergent states do not represent team interaction or team actions that lead
toward outcomes. Rather, they are products of team experiences (including team processes) and
become new inputs to subsequent processes and outcomesQ (p. 358). Team leadership capacity is an

example of such an emergent state with potential for influencing future performance (although the
exact nature of this influence is unknown). We believe that team performance is shaped by
complementary processes that occur in parallel IMOI cycles and that ongoing team performance
episodes likely intersect with team leadership cycles; however, it is premature to speculate on the
specific nature of these intersections.
We next turn our attention to addressing teamwork because this is thought to be an important
mediational process in the development of team learning and team leadership capacity (in addition to
team performance). The IMOI perspective on teams (Ilgen et al., in press) is much more helpful to
conceptualizing the types of multiple mediational processes addressed in the present model than
traditional, linear, and univocal I–P–O models. The following section provides a brief overview of the
nature of teamwork, how it can be developed through formal interventions, and how it is differentiated
from team leadership.

  1. What is teamwork?
    Most organizations would espouse the goal of striving for better teamwork from their
    employees. Greater collaboration among employees is often seen as a way to achieve collective
    organizational goals and develop a competitive advantage. For these reasons, executives and
    managers often promote teamwork as a core value in their organizations. Indeed, survey results of

human resource professionals in Fortune 100 companies indicated that teamwork and how to
capitalize on it were their highest priorities (Roomkin, Rosen, & Dubbs, 1998, as cited in Naquin
& Tynan, 2003). Although few would refute the value of building better teamwork in an
organization, what do we really know about the nature of teamwork? Specifically, how do we
know if we have it and how do we get it? What are the actions, events, behaviors and cognitions
that good teams exhibit?
Teamwork is a dynamic and elusive phenomenon. Despite the decades of research on the topic,
organizations still have problems composing, developing, and managing teams (Salas, Stagl, & Burke,
2004). There is also residual confusion about how teamwork differs from team leadership (especially
when leadership is examined at the more aggregate level of analysis). However, some progress has
been made in recent years in terms of a better understanding about what comprises teamwork.
Teamwork is a set of interrelated and flexible cognitions, behaviors, and attitudes that are used to
achieve desired mutual goals. In a sense, teams bthink,Q bdo,Q and bfeelQ as they perform their
interdependent tasks. These cognitions, behaviors, and attitudes reflect the competencies (i.e.,
knowledge, skills, and abilities and other characteristics) that team members need to have in order
to execute effective team functions and to achieve performance greater than the total independent
efforts of all individual team members.
Several researchers have advanced typologies or taxonomies of key teamwork competencies (see
Stevens & Campion, 1994; Cannon-Bowers, Tannenbaum, Salas, & Volpe, 1995). There is evidence
that some of these are essential to team performance (see Salas et al., 2004), but there is not a clear
and consistent picture of the core elements of teamwork. There remains too much fragmentation and a
lack of clarity on the core constructs. However, a clearer look at the evidence of what has been shown
to facilitate or hinder the development of teamwork may help point to a parsimonious set of core
elements. Recently, Salas, Sims, and Burke (2004) have argued that there might be a bBig FiveQ in
teamwork. They suggest that in highly interdependent teams, five critical components emerged: (a)
Mutual performance monitoring, (b) back-up behaviors, (c) adaptability, (d) active leadership, and (e)
team orientation.
4.1. Mutual performance monitoring
Mutual performance monitoring can be defined as team members ability to bkeep track of fellow team
member’s [sic] work while carrying out their own. . .to ensure that everything is running as expected and
to ensure that they are following procedures correctlyQ (McIntyre & Salas, 1995, p. 23). Recent research
has suggested that effective teams are composed of members who maintain an awareness of team
functioning. They do this by monitoring fellow members’ work such that they catch mistakes, slips, or
lapses prior to or shortly after they have occurred. This awareness requires a shared understanding (i.e.,
shared mental model) of the task, and team equipment roles and requirements (see Cannon-Bowers,
Salas, & Converse, 1993).
4.2. Back-up behavior
Back-up behavior is about supportive actions on the part of team members. It is a product of teams
effectively monitoring their own performance as well as that of their members. Thus, mutual
performance monitoring allows for back-up behavior to occur. It has been defined as bthe discretionary

provision resource and task-related to another member of one’s team that is intended to help that team
member obtain the goals as defined by his or her role. . . (and) often result from a recognition by
potential back up providers that there is a workload distribution problem in their teamQ (Porter et al.,
2003, pp. 391–392). That is, while team members are monitoring their teammates, they are able to detect
deficiencies or overloads and step in to assist when needed. As a result, team members can shift work
responsibilities to others as it becomes necessary. This is very similar to the construct Johnston and
Briggs (1968) referred to as load balancing.
4.3. Adaptability
If team members are performing mutual performance monitoring and back-up behavior, then the team
can adapt. Adaptability refers to the ability to recognize deviations from expected actions and readjust
actions accordingly. Thus, team adaptability has been defined as a team’s ability to recognize deviation
from expected action and readjust their strategies according to the particular task demands at hand
(Cannon-Bowers et al., 1995; Salas et al., 2004). Adaptability is what makes teams valuable in
organizations since they can allocate resources, self-correct, and redistribute workload as they go in
response to changing organizational and external environmental demands.
4.4. Leadership
Team leaders can make or break a team and are extremely influential in terms of the degree of
teamwork that develops (or not). Team leaders (whether formally appointed or emergent) create,
foster, promote, and maintain shared understanding to enable effective teamwork. Thus, an effective
team leader will create a climate that encourages mutual performance monitoring, supportive behavior,
and adaptability. Put somewhat differently, leaders can offer a valuable input to team processes.
Effective team leaders shape the development of shared mental models in their teams by
systematically seeking, evaluating, and organizing information about team functioning and constraints
(Zaccaro et al., 2001). They then serve as sensemakers by interpreting and communicating key
information to the team thereby creating a mental framework (or template) that promotes common
understanding and action. In this manner, effective leaders can help develop team-level leadership that
can be drawn from the team (i.e., serve as input) in subsequent performance cycles. These resources
are what we referred to earlier as team leadership capacity.
4.5. Team orientation
The final dimension thought to be an essential aspect of teamwork is the orientation of the team
toward the individual or the collective. Although the previous dimensions have been behavioral in
nature, team orientation is attitudinal. Team or collective orientation is the tendency to enhance
individual performance through the coordination, evaluation, and use of task inputs from other group
members in an interdependent manner in performing a group task (Driskell & Salas, 1992).
Moreover, several researchers have found that some individuals with more of an egocentric
orientation prefer to work independently and will tend to perform poorly in team settings relative to
situation in which they are allowed to work alone. As a result, team performance will be significantly
enhanced by the ability to bring together team members who are willing to be collectively oriented

and develop a shared (i.e., team-based) social identity. Others have recently elaborated on how team
leaders can shape or develop collective identities in a team (Lord & Brown, 2004). This type of team
orientation or collective team identity is a valuable resource that can be drawn upon in future
performance episodes.

  1. Interventions for developing teamwork
    There are many ways to develop teamwork skills (e.g., building individual competencies or
    human capital for teamwork). The most common way is team training, which can be conceptualized
    as a set of theoretically based strategies or instructional processes. Recent research has advanced and
    tested a number of these strategies and we next review some specific team training and development
    strategies that have been used to enhance team performance. The discussion includes current
    information on the effectiveness of each of these instructional approaches. Although there are more
    training strategies than are depicted here, the ones described below and summarized in Table 1
    represent some of the most effective team training strategies as based on the available empirical
    5.1. Cross training
    The focus of cross training is in giving trainees exposure to, and practice on, other teammates’
    tasks. That is, trainees experience the task requirements and needs of one or more teammates (i.e.,
    they bwalk in someone else’s shoesQ). Cross training is therefore designed to result in better team
    member knowledge with respect to teammates’ task responsibilities and coordination requirements.
    Specifically, cross training may involve positional clarification (team members are provided with
    general knowledge of teammates’ general position and responsibilities), positional modeling (where
    the duties of each team member are discussed and observed), and positional rotation (allows direct,
    hands-on practice of each member’s specific tasks; Blickensderfer, Cannon-Bowers, & Salas, 1998).
    Evidence supporting the effectiveness of cross training has been collected in both the laboratory and
    the field. The bulk of this evidence suggests that cross training can improve the team’s anticipatory
    behavior and foster communication and coordination strategies. For example, Volpe, Cannon-Bowers,
    Salas, and Spector (1996) found that cross training was an important determinant of effective task
    coordination, communication, and performance.
    5.2. Metacognitive training
    Metacognition can be defined as the ability to understand and monitor one’s own thoughts, and the
    assumptions and implications of one’s activities (Brown, Bransford, Ferrara, & Campione, 1983;
    Flavell, 1979). Metacognitive and regulatory processes must necessarily extend beyond the self when
    working in teams. That is, individual-level cognitive and behavioral skills must operate seamlessly
    across the team in order to maximize team effectiveness. Team members must be able to monitor the
    pacing of their team’s work and be able to step in to assist teammates who need assistance when
    overloaded. Furthermore, they must build and maintain a sense of team efficacy to deal with
    challenges faced in the operational environment (Kozlowski, 1998). Training to improve

metacognitive skills is designed to teach team members to become more aware of the strategies they
use to learn, determine which strategies are most appropriate, and enable periodic adjustment as
necessary. Specific strategies targeted may include error detecting, effort and attention allocating,
elaborating, self-questioning, self-explanation, constructing visual representations, activating prior
knowledge, and revision (Lin, 2001). Metacognitive skills have a demonstrated relationship with
knowledge acquisition, behavior acquisition, and increased self-efficacy (Ford, Smith, Weissbein,
Gully, & Salas, 1998).
5.3. Team coordination training
Team coordination training (also known as crew resource management) has been successfully
applied across a wide variety of contexts, including aviation settings (Prince & Salas, 1993), medical
environments (Gaba, Howard, & Small, 1995), and in other complex team decision-making
situations (Salas, Cannon-Bowers, & Johnston, 1997). The general purpose of team coordination
training is to prevent and mitigate errors (i.e., to improve decision making during emergencies and
improve teamwork communication and coordination). The delivery typically varies according to the
requirements dictated by each environment. These strategies have been tested empirically and have
demonstrated substantial team performance improvements (e.g., Leedom & Simon, 1995; Salas,
Dickinson, Converse, & Tannenbaum, 1992; Salas, Fowlkes, Stout, Milanovich, & Prince, 1999;
Salas, Burke, Bowers, & Wilson, 2001).
5.4. Self-guided correction training
Team self-correction is a process in which teammates think about and discuss teammate roles and
responsibilities, team strategy, integral sequences and responses, and related concepts. This training
strategy specifically targets mutual performance monitoring, team leadership, and closed-loop
communication. The team is taught to diagnose, design, and implement solutions to its team functional
problems. Behavioral modeling is one typical method for training team self-correction and has been used
successfully in the past (e.g., Smith-Jentsch, Zeisig, Acton, & McPherson, 1998) to build a greater
degree of shared expectations among team members and allow teams to use more implicit coordination
and enable better overall performance.
5.5. Assertiveness training
Assertiveness training is designed to teach team members to effectively communicate when they are:
(a) offering or requesting assistance, (b) offering a potential solution, or (c) providing feedback to other
team members. An underlying assumption of this strategy is that each team member is a resource who
can provide unique perspectives and solutions to team tasks (Smith-Jentsch, Salas, & Baker, 1996).
Assertiveness training is a strategy that uses role modeling and active practice to improve individual
members’ assertiveness. Research examining the impact of assertiveness training has indicated that,
whereas both attitudinally focused and skill-based training improved attitudes toward team member
assertiveness, practice and feedback are critical to producing behavioral effects. When given proper
practice and feedback opportunities, individual improvements in assertiveness have been demonstrated
(Smith-Jentsch et al., 1996).

5.6. Stress exposure training
As teams often operate in stressful environments (especially in military and aviation contexts), stress
exposure training may be provided to individuals and whole teams in order to prepare them to maintain
effective performance under stressful conditions. It is designed to make trainees more familiar with the
stress environment, build trainees’ confidence in their ability to perform under stress, and develop the
skills of trainees to make their performance more effective in the stress environment. When these
objectives are met, stress exposure training has been able to reduce the negative influence of stress on
team performance (Driskell & Johnston, 1998).
5.7. Scenario-based team training
The aim of this strategy is to provide opportunities for the trainees to develop team competencies by
practicing in simulated environments that are representative of actual operational conditions and
receiving feedback linked to specific events that occur during training. It tightly links critical tasks,
learning objectives, scenario design, performance measurement, and feedback, and has been empirically
tested and operationally demonstrated in a variety of team training environments (Oser, Cannon-Bowers,
Salas, & Dwyer, 1999). In short, it creates linkages among critical scenario components that can be used
to guide the systematic infrastructure design. These linkages have many potential advantages, among
which include: (a) reduced number and experience level of personnel to operate as part of the scenario
planning and control staff, (b) facilitation of the development of new scenarios, and (c) maximization of
use of previously developed scenarios.
5.8. Team building
Team building has also been referred to as team development and is an extremely popular and
common intervention. Team building interventions may focus on role clarification, goal setting, problem
solving, or interpersonal relations as a target. Taken together, there is no conclusive evidence of
empirical support for the effect of team building on performance (e.g., Buller, 1986; Woodman &
Sherwood, 1980). However, when examining the specific components of team building, it has been
found that interventions emphasizing role clarification were most likely to increase performance,
whereas interventions emphasizing goal setting, problem solving, or interpersonal relations were no
more likely to render an increase or decrease in performance (Salas, Rozell, Mullen, & Driskell, 1999).
Team building is also less likely to be effective as function of team size—larger teams typically derive
less benefit from team building interventions (Salas, Fowlkes, Stout, Milanovich, & Prince, 1999).
In sum, the literature on teamwork has identified five interrelated components that are thought to be
critical for the development of teamwork, including (a) mutual performance monitoring, (b) back-up
behaviors, (c) adaptability, (d) team leadership, and (e) team orientation. There are also recognized
interventions that can be used to enhance teamwork. If teamwork is considered as an important
mediational process as based on the IMOI model (Ilgen et al., in press), one question is whether it can
help create team-based leadership as an outcome. Put somewhat differently, can teamwork help to create
team-level leadership resources and enhance the leadership capacity of the team? A relevant issue to
address is whether the research evidence supports the possibility of team-level processes, such as
leadership. The literature on group information processing suggests that it is indeed possible.

  1. Group information processing
    One perspective that supports the notion of a team-level leadership focus is the recognition that
    groups (like individuals) process relevant and available information to perform intellectual tasks.1
    Group-level information processing binvolves the degree to which information, ideas, or cognitive
    processes are shared, and are being shared, among the group members and how this sharing of
    information affects both individual- and group-level outcomesQ (Hinsz, Tindale, & Vollrath, 1997). The
    particular outcome of interest here is leadership.
    Hinsz et al. (1997) demonstrated based on a comprehensive review of the literature that the same
    information-processing components that are thought to describe how individuals process information
    (e.g., attention, encoding, storage, retrieval, response, feedback, and so forth) are also relevant to groups.
    Their review also noted some differences between how individuals and groups process information. For
    example, groups generally decrease variability in the way information is processed relative to
    individuals. There are other differences that are a result of the fact that groups are composed of multiple
    individuals. Hinsz et al. termed these bdimensions of variabilityQ for understanding group-level
    information processing (e.g., communality–uniqueness of information, convergence–diversity of ideas,
    accentuation–attenuation of cognitive processes, and belongingness–distinctiveness of members).
    The four dimensions of variability relate to the contribution and combination aspects of team-level
    information processing and reflect its inherent multilevel nature. Contributions reflect the individual
    level, whereas combination occurs at the group or team level. The information, ideas, cognitive
    processes, leadership skills, or other forms of human capital that team members bring to an interaction
    are the individual-level contributions. The ways in which these individual contributions are aggregated
    during team interaction and the development of teamwork illustrate the combination process. The
    important point to consider is that team-level phenomena are almost always based to some degree on
    individual-level skills and processes. When discussing something like team learning, for example, it is
    necessary to remember that team learning cannot occur without some level of individual learning. Thus,
    there must be both the motivation and ability to learn among the various team members. But that does
    not mean that team learning is the same as aggregated individual learning, as discussed in the next
  2. Team learning
    If team-level information processing can occur as Hinsz et al. (1997) suggest, then it is a logical
    extension to consider the possibility of team learning, especially in terms of building leadership
    capacity in a team. Learning is often a precursor to adaptation (Ilgen et al., in press). In this manner,
    being motivated and able to learn is a prerequisite for effective leadership and at the team level

learning would provide an important means of developing leadership resources. A definition of team
learning that has been offered in the literature views it as ba relatively permanent change in the team’s
collective level of knowledge and skill produced by the shared experience of the team membersQ (Ellis
et al., 2003, p. 822). In this way, team learning depends on each member’s individual ability to
acquire knowledge, skills, and abilities as well as his or her ability to collectively share that
information with teammates. The focus of this conceptualization and definition of team learning is as
an outcome. A process-oriented definition of team learning was offered by Edmondson (1999), who
conceptualized learning at the team level of analysis as ban ongoing process of reflection and action,
characterized by asking questions, seeking feedback, experimenting, reflecting on results, and
discussing errors or unexpected outcomes of actionsQ (Edmondson, 1999, p. 353). She referred to
these kinds of activities as learning behavior. It is through these activities that learning is enacted at
the team level. Our perspective mirrors that of Ellis et al. and Edmondson in viewing team learning as
both a process and an outcome (see Fig. 1).
Edmondson’s (1999) work is interesting in that it demonstrated that certain team beliefs were
important conditions for team learning behavior. Specifically, she found that team psychological safety,
and to a lesser extent, team efficacy, were related to team learning behavior as assessed by both selfreport
of team members as well as by an independent observer. Team psychological safety was defined
as ba shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk takingQ (p. 354). It is thought to depend on a
sense of confidence that the team will not reject or embarrass a team member for asking a question or
making a contribution. This confidence is based on mutual trust and respect among team members. Team
efficacy is an extension of the well-documented role of self-efficacy in enhancing individual
performance, and pertains to the shared belief that the team is capable of using new information to
generate useful results. According to Edmondson, team psychological safety and team efficacy are
complementary processes in which team efficacy supplements the positive effect of the team’s sense of
psychological safety on its learning. The implications of these results suggest that engaging in learning
behavior in a team is highly dependent on team psychological safety. What is needed, however, is a
better understanding of how team psychological safety develops and what specific conditions enhance or
impede it.
In an attempt to address this unanswered question from her earlier study, Edmondson, Bohmer, and
Pisano (2001) analyzed the learning and performance of cardiac surgery teams that were implementing
new microsurgical technology. Their approach mixed qualitative interviews with more quantitative
analyses of 669 heart operations conducted in 16 hospitals. The overarching goal was to differentiate
the successful implementers of this new technology from the less successful implementers.
Psychological safety was found to be important for successful implementation in that it supported
the kinds of behavioral change necessary for learning the new implementation. When lower-status
team members were afraid of censure from higher-status surgeons on the team, this posed an obstacle
to the team’s learning and performance. Interview data suggested that there were specific actions of
the formal team leader in terms of signaling openness to feedback and communicating a rationale for
change that were important in creating team psychological safety. This is consistent with a traditional
perspective on team leadership in that the leader helps foster certain conditions that enhance team
processes and learning.
Based on their research and experience with learning teams, Edmondson, Bohmer, and Pisano (2001)
have made specific recommendations for leaders to help create environments for team learning. The first
is to be accessible, because that helps make clear that others’ opinions are welcomed and valued. The

second is to ask for input. In addition to a climate of accessibility and openness, asking explicitly for
contributions from team members can help enhance a learning environment. The third is to serve as what
they call a bfallibility modelQ (p.132) by admitting mistakes to the team because it signals that errors and
other concerns can be discussed without fear of punishment. In this way, it can be seen how individual
leaders can help enhance cooperation, teamwork, and learning in a team. Individual leaders matter in
creating teamwork and building team learning that are necessary preconditions for team-level leadership
More recent research in this vein has investigated the role of subgroup strength—defined as the
degree of overlap across multiple demographic characteristics among a subset of team members—as
well as team heterogeneity on team learning (Gibson & Vermeulen, 2003). Strong subgroups occur in a
team when there are pairs with considerable overlap and pairs with very little overlap. The essence of the
proposed relevance of subgroup strength is that subgroups within larger-sized teams may have a positive
impact because they function as supportive cohorts (i.e., a group of people who share a similar
background and have a similar worldview) within a team. However, those teams in which subgroup
strength was either very weak or very strong were hypothesized to have the lowest levels of team
learning (i.e., an inverted-U curvilinear effect).
Results supported both of these central hypotheses. Subgroup strength was also shown to moderate
the relationship between specific organizational design concerns (performance management by an
external leader, team empowerment, and the use of knowledge management systems) and team learning.
A primary contribution of this study is in demonstrating empirically that team composition matters when
it comes to team learning, which might also help understand its relationship to team effectiveness. It also
demonstrated that the effectiveness of specific aspects of a team’s organizational context that are thought
to stimulate learning depends on team composition.
In another recent study of team learning (Bunderson & Sutcliffe, 2003), the role of team learning
orientation, or the team’s climate of proactive learning, was examined. Building on the work of Dweck
(1986) that has examined individual motivational processes thought to affect learning (i.e., performance
versus learning goals), curvilinear effects of team learning orientation on team effectiveness was
hypothesized. Specifically, it was proposed that btoo much emphasis on learning can detract from
performance just as too little emphasis on learning can detract from performanceQ (p. 554). Support was
found for the curvilinear hypothesis on the two measured components of business unit performance—
performance to plan and profit per unit. An important implication of these findings is that
overemphasizing (or underemphasizing) team learning may not be an effective strategy when it comes
to enhancing team performance. Instead, the right balance must be struck between the learning and
performance orientations adopted by the team.
Another recent study (Ellis et al., 2003) took a somewhat different perspective on team learning,
conceptualizing it as an outcome rather than an antecedent or process variable. Using the group
information-processing framework outlined by Hinsz et al. (1997), the authors proposed that project
teams need to attend to, encode, store, and retrieve information both within and between the minds of
team members in order to learn. The results from a study of 109 four-person student teams engaged in a
simulated war games exercise demonstrated several interesting points with regard to team learning: (a)
Personality matters: Teams composed of members high on Agreeableness had lower levels of learning;
(b) Structure matters: Project teams working within a paired structure learned more than those that were
structured divisionally or functionally; (c) Workload distribution matters: Teams encountering an uneven
workload distribution learned less than teams encountering an even workload distribution; and (d) a

btruth supported winsQ model is superior: At least two team members need to have access to the same
information in order for the team to learn.

  1. Summary of the research on team learning
    There have been notable findings in the recent research on team learning in organizational (as
    compared with educational) contexts, both in terms of conceptualizing team learning as a process and as
    an outcome. Edmondson and colleagues have demonstrated that team psychological safety is an
    important antecedent of team learning behavior, and that there are specific things that leaders can do to
    enhance the psychological safety of their teams. The context in which the team performs matters in terms
    of its demographic composition (subgroup strength), its relative personality in terms of agreeableness, as
    well as aspects of structure, workload distribution, and access to information. It was also found that team
    learning orientation was important to performance up to a point beyond which it impeded performance.
    These are all interesting findings with theoretical and practical implications. What has not been
    discussed in any detail is the relationship between team learning and team-based leadership. To date, the
    focus has been mainly on what individual leaders can do to enhance team learning, and to a lesser extent
    the relationship between team learning and team performance. The role of individual leaders in teams is
    and will continue to be an important topic of research and theory. But what is also needed is a greater
    understanding of how team learning is related to the emergence of team-level leadership capacity.
  2. Team learning and team leadership
    From a general perspective, learning is centrally important to leadership. A classic distinction between
    management and leadership is that management is mostly about working within the status quo more
    efficiently whereas leadership is primarily about change (Kotter, 1990). Learning is not always necessary
    for greater efficiency but it is essential in fostering any kind of individual, team, or organizational change
    in that learning is a precursor for adaptation (Ilgen et al., in press). It has been argued that a hallmark of
    effective teams in complex environments is their willingness and ability to learn their way out of novel
    problems (Dixon, 1993; Weick, 1993) or what some have called adaptive challenges (Drath, 2001;
    Heifetz, 1994). These are the kinds of challenges confronting a team for which it has no preexisting
    resources, remedies, tools, solutions, and may not even have the means for accurately naming or
    describing the challenge (Drath, p. 21). Adaptive challenges are in contrast to technical challenges,
    which are more routine problems or decisions that must be made. These might be difficult problems, but
    the existing resources are sufficient for addressing them effectively. Technical challenges do not require
    much leadership and may not demand any team leadership resources; however, coming to terms with
    adaptive challenges is considered to be a major leadership task according to Drath.
    One way in which an adaptive challenge can be faced is if the leader creates a solution and gives it to
    the team for implementation. This can be an effective strategy provided that the leader can construct such
    a solution. This becomes increasingly unlikely the more complex the environment. There is another
    possible downside to this approach: It fosters dependencies in followers. If followers are conditioned to
    look to the formal or informal leader for btheQ answer in challenging times, then these followers may not
    be able to learn or lead collectively with any consistency or effectiveness. They will be stuck if the leader

cannot envision a solution for them. As noted recently, leaders who enhance a strong personal
identification in followers tend to promote leader dependence (Kark, Shamir, & Chen, 2003). But having
the collective capacity to face an adaptive challenge in an open and learning-oriented manner broadens
the resources of the team, which should contribute to greater adaptability and effectiveness.
One possibility that is created through teamwork and team learning is a broader capacity for
leadership in the team. Another way to put this is that the team becomes more versatile in terms of how it
can enact leadership. This versatility is a direct function of the team’s overall capacity for leadership.
One possibility for what might contribute to this team-level leadership capacity can be found in the
emerging literature on shared or distributed leadership.

  1. The possibility of distributed leadership
    Shared or distributed leadership (again, we use these terms interchangeably) is slowly gaining
    momentum as a field of interest with both scholars and practitioners. Thus far, the literature on
    distributed leadership (DL) is relatively modest but steadily growing, with research strongest in the fields
    of business management and educational leadership. At the time of this writing, Bennett, Harvey, Wise,
    and Woods (2003) have provided the most comprehensive review of the DL literature and there has been
    at least one edited collection of writings on DL (Pearce & Conger, 2003a). Some historical antecedents
    of DL have been surveyed by Pearce and Conger (2003b), although there are important oversights in
    their review (e.g., Brown, 1989; Brown & Hosking, 1986; Gibb, 1954; Gronn, 2002b). The concept of
    DL has also been subjected to critical analysis by Gronn (2002a,b) and Spillane, Halverson, and
    Diamond (2000), and is the subject matter of a forthcoming monograph-length study (Gronn, in press).
    Despite these healthy indications of scholarly activity, O’Toole, Galbraith, and Lawler (2003) report an
    indifferent reception to their work on DL and claim that DL has been blargely ignored in the research
    literatureQ (p.251).
    According to Pearce and Conger (2003b), the prevailing view of leadership is that it is concentrated or
    focused, in which the brelationship between the leader and the led is a vertical one of top–down
    influenceQ (p. 1). As a consequence, much attention has been paid to the behaviors, mind-sets, and
    actions of the leader (singular) in a team or other work unit. Half a century ago, however, Gibb (1954)
    allowed for a different possibility when he wrote that:
    Leadership is probably best conceived as a group quality, as a set of functions which must be
    carried out by the group. This concept of ddistributed leadershipT is an important one. If there are
    leadership functions which must be performed in any group, and if these functions may be
    dfocusedT or ddistributedT, then leaders will be identifiable both in terms of the frequency and in
    terms of the multiplicity or pattern of functions performed (p. 884).
    Gibb (1954) then foreshadowed a definitional dilemma in the event that a group became the unit of
    analysis, which might result in either the dilution of the concept of leader or its removal altogether. It is a
    predicament in a group to identify whose behavior should be observed in drawing up role prescriptions
    of leadership. It becomes even trickier to identify criteria by which to differentiate a leader from others in
    a team. Gibb went on to suggest that the concept of leader may no longer have scientific value if team
    members are differentiated primarily in terms of the leadership roles that they play (e.g., initiator,

energizer, harmonizer, expediter). This role-based perspective on team leadership is very similar to the
functional perspective offered by Zaccaro et al. (2001).
The possibility raised by Gibb (1954) of a distribution of leadership across a group lay dormant for
over three decades until it was resurrected as part of an explanation for patterns of role sharing,
networking, and consensus decision making observed in informally structured social movements
(Brown, 1989; Brown & Hosking, 1986). Subsequently, interest in conceptual and empirical possibilities
of DL began to develop.
Since the late 1990s, DL has been interpreted in a number of ways, with definitions ranging from the
unduly restrictive to the highly fluid and open ended. One view of DL is that it identical to team- or
group-level leadership (Locke, 2003). In some cases (e.g., Barry, 1991), shared team leadership refers to
emergent, fluctuating levels of individual team member influence, or mutual influence of, by, and on
team members (Pearce, 2004). In still other approaches (e.g., Avolio, Sivasubramaniam, Murry, Jung, &
Garger, 2003), it extends to the bcollective influence of the group on individual membersQ (p. 149).
Another slightly expanded view is that DL involves informal influence as part of ba dynamic, interactive
influence process among individuals in work groups,Q both lateral and vertical, but with the key attribute
being bmore than just downward influence on subordinates by an appointed or an elected leaderQ
(Conger & Pearce, 2003, p. 286). Others identify DL with group-based mutuality of influence, but adopt
a slightly less fixed or frozen view of groups in the guise of social networks (Mayo, Meindl, & Pastor,
2003). Finally, when workplaces are conceptualized as communities of practice (Gronn, 2003),
conventional role binaries, such as leadership–followership and superordinate–subordinate, tend to give
way to the kinds of alternative or substitute roles envisaged by Gibb and, as part of leadership in teams,
by Burke, Fiore, and Salas (2003).
An alternate perspective to tracking relations and flows of influence has been to focus on role space
occupancy. Thus, the idea that two or more incumbents may share a role space has been documented in a
series of case studies by Heenan and Bennis (1999). This is the idea of co-leadership or joint leadership
(although see Locke, 2003, for a contrarian view), the historical antecedents of which have been traced
back as far as the practice of co-consuls in republican Rome (Sally, 2002) and the tetrarchy (of four
Caesars) instituted by the emperor Diocletian in the imperial Roman era (Freeman, 2003). DL with coleadership
as the unit of analysis takes two main forms. The first is anchored in a formal relationship in
which, for example, the role incumbents exercise co- or joint authority. A good example of the dynamics
of shared role space is co-principals in schools (Court, 2003; Gronn & Hamilton, 2004). The second may
be either a formally or informally grounded relationship across hierarchical levels as in the case of school
principals or their deputies (Nias, 1987), managers and their immediate subordinates (Krantz, 1989),
between organizational heads and campus or branch heads (Gronn, 1999), or between adjacent role
incumbents, such as chairpersons and chief executives (Chityayat, 1985; Stewart, 1991a,b).
Apart from an explicit or implied emphasis on lateral relations (in contrast to vertical leadership), a
common feature of the examples discussed so far is numbers. That is, leadership is recast as distributed
or shared due to an increase in leader personnel beyond a sole leader to include two, three, or more
persons. In effect, DL in this sense means more than one leader. While there are criteria other than
numbers for defining teams, somewhere in this terrain of small numbers there is a threshold beyond
which one crosses over into the territory of teams. The application of DL to suborganizational units, such
as groups and teams, represents the outer limits of DL for some (e.g., most of the contributors to the
volume edited by Pearce & Conger, 2003a). Apart from Pearce (2004, p. 50), however, who specifies a
team size of five or fewer members for optimal DL, most discussions of team-based DL are vague about

scope and the actual size of teams. Spillane et al. (2000) extend DL beyond suborganizational units to
allow for it to be manifest, potentially, across an entire organization and beyond:
Our central argument is that school leadership is best understood as a distributed practice, stretched
over the school’s social and situational contexts (p. 23, original emphasis).
An additional perspective on DL is to consider the numerical manifestations of it (i.e., couples,
pairings, or small groups) in holistic, as opposed to aggregated, terms. Here, the focus is on joint work
units and the properties of the relations between the unit members. This is similar to the issue of
connectivity discussed by O’Connor and Quinn (2004) with regard to an organization’s capacity for
leadership, in which connectivity is defined as bthe relative interrelatedness of the members of an
organizationQ (p. 423).
It also appears at least somewhat like Hunt and Ropo’s (1997) processual systems approach, that
examines leadership as part of a holistic configuration of components within a group or organization.
Besides this example, there are few such holistic accounts and some, such as Locke (2003), dismiss the
very idea of holism. The pioneering work in this area examined the bexecutive role constellationQ
(Hodgson, Levinson, & Zaleznik, 1965) based on a field study of the administrative triumvirate formed
by three senior medical executives and clinicians. The analytical focus was on key dimensions of the
working division of labor within the constellation (role specialization, differentiation, and complementarity)
and the impact of this kind of DL across a psychiatric institute. Subsequently, Gronn (1999)
built on these attributes in an attempt to specify four necessary and sufficient conditions for the
development and consolidation of relations of trust in plural-member, joint work units: (a) shared values,
(b) experience of psychological space, (c) contrasting temperaments, and (d) opportunities for role

  1. Remaining issues
    It is hoped that this summary is sufficient to indicate that DL represents an exciting new development
    in leadership. It is one lens for conceptualizing and studying leadership as a team (or organization)
    phenomenon, and not just as an individual attribute or behavior that is brought to a team. In effect, the
    team creates this leadership capacity as a function of its collective human capital, teamwork, and
    learning (see Fig. 1). This perspective on team leadership builds on the traditional model that views a
    leader’s knowledge, skills, and abilities (i.e., human capital) as input to team processes that builds teamlevel
    leadership capacity through the mediational processes of teamwork and team learning. Team-level
    leadership thus serves not only as one form of output but also as input to the ongoing cycle of team
    performing. In this manner, the social capital associated with team leadership (Day, 2000) creates new
    forms of human capital (knowledge, skills, and abilities) as people work and learn together (Coleman,
    Despite the progress made in better understanding DL, there are some important ongoing questions
    and unresolved issues. One concern is the status of DL. In a field which is well known for its
    badjectivalismQ (i.e., versions of leadership distinguished by endless additions of adjectives such as
    transformational leadership and charismatic leadership), to what extent is DL simply the latest in a
    seemingly never-ending list of adjectival forms? On the other hand, is there an argument for claiming

that it represents a new and altogether different leadership paradigm? There is a strong sense in much of
literature that DL is an idea whose time has finally come. In some cases, the acceptance of DL has arisen
due to recognition of the increasing nonsustainability of a focused model of individual leader
omniscience (e.g., Pearce, 2004). Relying on centralized leadership focused on an individual team leader
has distinct limits of effectiveness, especially in dealing with complex adaptive changes. Others have
wondered whether the attention accorded DL is a sign of an emerging postheroic phase of leadership
(e.g., Gronn, 2002a) and even whether the notion of solo leadership has ever been valid historically
(O’Toole et al., 2003). Ironically, it has recently been argued that teams have become the new
organizational hero and that there is a bteam halo effectQ whereby teams tend to not be blamed for their
failures (Naquin & Tynan, 2003).
Teams are not the panacea for organizational woes. At best the evidence is mixed regarding the
benefits of teams and teamwork. Nonetheless, there are distinct potential benefits of widening the lens to
include team-level leadership. Such an approach recognizes that there are resources that are created
through connections and relationships that can be drawn from in responding to leadership challenges
(O’Connor & Quinn, 2004). But the literature suggests that there are some similarities and some
differences when comparing individual and group processes (Hinsz et al., 1997) and we need much more
research that considers leadership as a team-level property.
There is an echo of this comment in Burns’ (2003) recent claim that ball leadership is collectiveQ (p.
75) or in Drath’s (2001) assertion that ball leadership is shared leadershipQ (p. 61) in the sense that team
members must first recognize a particular action as leadership in order for leadership to be evident. In
this manner, even the most autocratic and vertical forms of leadership can be conceptualized as shared so
long as others agree to go along with it. From this perspective, however, the meaning of shared
leadership is diluted in its application to any situation in which leaders and followers act in ways that can
be thought of as leadership. Team leadership capacity allows for versatile forms of leadership to emerge.
The leadership repertoire of a team is thus broadened to transcend individual models of leadership to also
recognize that leadership can be developed as an emergent state in teams.

  1. Conclusions
    The focus of the present review was on developing a better understanding of team leadership capacity
    and how it develops as an emergent state in teams. Team leadership capacity was conceptualized as a
    resource that develops as a function of individual human capital (knowledge, skills, and abilities)—
    including the leadership resources of a formal or informal leader—as well as teamwork and team
    learning. These team leadership resources (i.e., social capital) serve as input in the ongoing cycle and
    episodic nature of teams. We draw from a recent framework (Ilgen et al., in press) that expands on the
    overly simplistic I–P–O (input–process–output) perspectives on teams to one that includes the
    acknowledgement of mediational processes, nonlinear or conditional effects, and feedback loops in
    which an output is used as input in a subsequent team cycle (e.g., team performance episodes; Marks et
    al., 2001).
    Team leadership capacity is thought to be an important resource for teams, especially when complex
    adaptive challenges are experienced. These are the kinds of problems that no single leader can be
    expected to solve. These are challenges confronting a team for which it has no preexisting resources,
    remedies, tools, solutions, and may not even have the means for accurately naming or describing the

challenge (Drath, 2001, p. 21). Adaptive challenges have been contrasted with technical challenges,
which are more routine problems to solve or decisions that must be made. These might be difficult
problems, but the existing resources are sufficient for addressing them effectively. Technical challenges
do not require much if any leadership in that they are possible to address using the relevant and available
knowledge, skills, and abilities contained in the team. Adaptive challenges require different ways of
making sense and adapting to the environment. Team leadership capacity can be developed as an
emergent state in teams through teamwork, team learning, and shared leadership. It can provide the kinds
of resources that help teams to be resilient and versatile even under the most challenging circumstances.
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