Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Exploring Leadership in Self-Managed Project Teams in Malaysia

Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Exploring Leadership in Self-Managed Project Teams in Malaysia

Article excerpt


Self-Managed Project Team (SMPT) has been widely adapted particularly in project-based organizations. This is due to its flexibility and freedom in the work processes given to the team members in achieving the team objectives. In this type of team, leadership is no longer regarded as an individual responsibility but it is where group members share responsibilities which results in more effective leadership. In a SMPT, team members become the source of leadership in which they do not have a formally appointed leader but it is them who demonstrate leadership behaviour. The independence of this type of team on conducting their tasks eliminates the importance of having a formal leader within the team especially in assisting the team as other traditional team leaders would do. This is the major difference of this particular type of team compared to other types of work team where each of the team members is given the responsibility to manage their tasks rather than depending upon the team leader as other types of work team.

Previous research has discussed how these teams operate, how they are being independent, and do not need the existence and assistance of a formal team leader to make any important decisions regarding their assigned project (e.g. Cohen et al., 1996; Orsburn et al., 1990; Parker et al., 2015; Kainen et al., 2008). According to Cohen et al. (1996) the best way to lead self-managing teams is to have no leader at all, as there is no relationship between individual leadership behaviour and the effectiveness of the self-managing teams. It is argued that what is most important in team performance is the team members' involvement rather than an individual leader. This suggests that focus should be given to team member behaviours which may provide insight into effectively facilitating self-managed team processes.

Moreover, interference by the external leader is said to interrupt the process of the team which is able to manage themselves. This is as highlighted by Beekun (1989) that a self-managing team without a leader performs better than with a leader, either internal or external. Therefore, no matter which approach is taken by the leader, it does not contribute to the success of the team. Similarly, several researchers have discussed how leaders have been identified as one of the main reason for the failure of self-managing team development (Cummings, 1978; Letize and Donovan, 1990). However, despite the claim that the SMPT is a type of independent work team, it appears that the existence of a team leader is still required especially for the purpose of guiding the team activities. However, the team leader is required to have a special set of skills to assist this particular type of team (Elloy, 2005). This is important in determining the successfulness of a SMPT.

According to Yeats and Hyten (1998), the leader of a SMPT differs from the traditional leader in the way that their role is as a coordinator rather than being highly involved with the team activities. Adding to that, there is also the existence of an external supervision known as 'external leader' (Druskat & Wheeler, 2003; Stewart & Manz, 1995). The influence of an external leader on facilitating self-regulating behaviours in self-managing teams is claimed as important towards team success (Manz, 1986). An effective external leader refers to those who are able to build close relationships between the team members and the top management by acting as a bridge connecting these two parties, also known as the boundary spanner (Cohen & Bailey, 1997). The boundary spanning activity is important in ensuring the success of the external leader as it is them who should be dealing with the team members as well as the management (Druskat & Wheeler, 2003).

Even though an external leader might be responsible for the team's performance, most of the time, they do not get involved closely with the team in the daily operational activities and decision making processes (Wageman, 2001). …

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