Moving from personal leadership to leading teams

Having spent a number of years working in the field of people management and leadership, I’ve observed first hand many people who have led themselves to success and become high performers. But what continues to interest me is the transition from success in individual leadership to success in organisational leadership. What are the behaviours of individual leaders and how can they use these skills to become respected group leaders?

What are the behaviours of high performers?

In my experience high performers will have a clear goal and outcome in mind. They’ll adopt a high level of self-discipline towards reaching their goal and will be single minded in their efforts. Energy levels may fluctuate but quitting is not an option for high performers. They’re driven no matter how difficult the situation and the promise of success will provide the necessary motivation. They’re addicted to success and this trait can be observed both in the workplace and in their private lives. Their motivation for success will drive them to regularly work 50-70 hours a week; their work ethic is relentless. The high performer will go above and beyond the call of duty and overcome obstacles, adversity, and self-doubt. They’re brave and not afraid to make difficult decisions.

What is the challenge for individuals at all levels bridging the gap from personal leadership to group leadership?

The challenge is how do you adapt and amend these personal leadership behaviours to suit a group leadership environment. How do you get groups of people to behave, think, embrace and follow the direction you believe will lead to success? As a group leader you cannot afford to be totally single minded because failing to look behind you can result in leaving behind vital support and expertise behind.  

I recently explored this subject with a friend who enjoyed a distinguished career as a senior officer in the British armed forces. He shares some of the lessons he’s learnt as a leader:

  • Pride in our work not only comes from within the individual but from the achievement of others around us such as colleagues and peers
  • A leader needs to create trust amongst the people they lead. They need to empower people to go out and accomplish the task
  • How you delegate is a key factor to successful management. It may be clear to you as a leader what is required but this may not translate to your colleagues. Clear communication is key
  • Be clear about your expectations. If you have high standards when it comes to performance or the detail of delivery then be clear about this. Don’t set people up to fail

Winning hearts and minds

So how do you go about inspiring others and getting people to go the extra mile? You need to make people feel valued and supported, this can be achieved by greater engagement at all times. What can we learn from military leaders who for centuries have put leadership at the heart of what they do? Leaders need to genuinely believe in the purpose of the task at hand. Inspiration will stem from the leader’s behaviour and people will quickly pick up on any doubts or disillusionment. Leaders need to communicate what is important to them as a person as well as a leader. Communicating your values, principles and beliefs will help people to connect with you and buy in to your vision and strategy. As a leader you are expected to get to know your people but it’s equally important that your people get to know you as a person and what is important to you as a leader.

My behavioural checklist for shifting from personal leadership to group leadership:

  • Communicate your beliefs, goals, targets and objectives clearly – ‘The why we are here message’
  • Trust – grow and develop a trust culture with all your people
  • Reward and acknowledge success
  • Generate a few quick wins for the people you lead – a starting point to make a difference as a leader
  • Consistency – strive for it in all areas as a leader
  • Self-discipline – do what you say you will do
  • Patience – if things go wrong, take a step back to reflect and not just react
  • Listen – be open to receiving as well as giving feedback
  • Value all your people
  • Get to know your people to enable you to be able motivate them – find out what makes them tick


Ensure you have good lines of communication this can be achieved by having regular 1-2-1 meetings with people (both formal and informal).

Outlining your vision as a leader and how the team will fit into your strategy and plans for the future.

Take the time to actively listen to the people around you as this helps to make people feel valued.

I wrote this article during my time as Senior Talent Consultant at IBM between 2011 and 2016.