by Colleen Kettenhofen

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

As I write this, I’m in Carmel, California for the weekend in between conducting team-building seminars. Approximately 40 participants were asked this week to describe their “ideal team leader.” Six key characteristics consistently cropped up. These are the same “ideal traits” I’ve been hearing about from my audiences worldwide for the past nine years!

    1. Honest. Do you possess personal integrity? Your employees will look to see if you do what you say you are going to do. This sounds like common sense and it is. Yet, too many team leaders forget this important trait. The minute you can’t deliver on your promises you lose all credibility. Remember the rule “under promise and over deliver.”
    2. Good Communicator. The ability to clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Do they know what their goals and objectives are on an individual basis? Does each team member understand the role of everyone else on the team? Does each of the departments in your organization understand the roles of the other departments? I frequently hear the comment, “in our organization, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. No one knows what their individual goals and objectives are much less anyone else’s in the other departments.”

It is the job of the team leader and/or supervisor to make certain everyone on your team has clearly defined roles and responsibilities, goals and objectives in writing. Make sure they are in writing so the team members are held accountable. If priorities are constantly shifting in your organization, it is imperative that you clearly communicate (both in person, via phone and in writing) any changes to each individual. Please remember they cannot expect to be mind readers.

Having said that, it’s also important that the team members themselves feel responsible for knowing their priorities and clarifying any changes. Remember the phrase “response-ability.”

It’s important that your employees feel comfortable approaching you with questions. Team leaders must be visible, approachable and available. If you say you have an open door policy, make sure you do. Again, credibility is key.

  1. Compatible personality with the team. People desire a team leader who is consistent and not “blowing hot and cold.” An emotionally stable leader who is not unpredictable and moody. Participants frequently tell me that their ideal team leader “understands how to get along with others,” and “trains team members in how to resolve conflicts.”
  2. Fair-minded. A team leader who is “fair-minded when giving recognition” is another highly desirable trait. Someone who doesn’t play favorites. Encourages team members to resolve their own conflicts. Only gets involved when the team members cannot resolve disagreements on their own. A leader in the workplace also must be adept at working with other department heads and resolving department territorial issues.
  3. Future-oriented. The 5th most common trait I hear on people’s “ideal team leader” list is “someone inspiring who has vision.” A vision that is clearly communicated so the team works toward a shared goal. Be a long-term planner. Have both long and short-range goals and an action plan in writing. Not having an action plan is like driving to a new destination without a map.
  4. Intelligent. Since you are the role model, you obviously need to be competent and intelligent. Employees tell me all the time, “my boss has no idea what I actually do. What my job involves, the challenges and time constraints.” Certainly this isn’t always the case, but learn as much as you can about each team members tasks. This way you can respond to their challenges and frustrations as they arise.

You are free to reprint or repost this article for use in your newsletters, association publications, or intranet provided Colleen Kettenhofen’s contact information (name, website, and email) is included with the article. Colleen Kettenhofen is a Phoenix, Arizona motivational speaker, trainer, & co-author of “The Masters of Success ,” featured on NBC’s Today Show, along with Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield. For free articles, video clips, and e-newsletter, visit Colleen’s area of expertise are leadership, managing people, life balance, difficult people, presentation skills. Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions and seminars.


She can be reached at contact information listed below:

Colleen Kettenhofen

(971) 212-0479


Please let us know how you plan to use this article or send an electronic tear sheet.