• Jeff Doolittle

How to Lead High Performing Teams



The leadership topic of high-performing teams is timeless. Leaders that focus on building high-performing teams reap significant rewards and return on their investments. There is much that can be learned from the coaches of teams playing at the world's highest levels of athleticism. José Mário dos Santos Mourinho is widely considered one of the greatest football team managers, winning league titles in four countries. In the Netflix series, The Playbook, Mourinho points out that the hidden talents of exceptional players such as football great Cristiano Renaldo can never be revealed without great teams. Mourinho makes a powerful yet subtle point that great teams and leaders are not selfish. This article explores the current research into the importance of a selfless leadership style and presents questions for any leader to consider that is looking to build a high-performance team.


"The concept of a team is one of the most beautiful things." Jose Mourinho

What are High Performing Teams?


Team potential is more than the sum of the individuals on the team. The value of high-performing teams is widely understood. McKenzie & Company found that a high-performance management team working together toward a common goal is 1.9 times as likely to have above-average financial performance. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard said it this way, “no one of us is as smart as all of us.”


What team would you think of if asked to name a high-performing team? Living south of Chicago during the 1990s, my thoughts immediately go to the Chicago Bulls and their domination of six National Basketball Association championships. While there is much debate over the greatest of all-time teams, there is little debate that the 1990's Chicago Bulls were a high-performing basketball team.


There is a clear difference between a team and a high-performing team. High-performing teams outperform other teams by consistently having better morale and collaboration and delivering better results and innovation. The following short video provides some valuable insights into high-performance teams through reflections from the Chicago Bulls Last Dance Netflix mini-series.



What is Leadership Style?


Leadership is a system increasingly impacted by technology and consists of the leader, followers, the situation, and time. Effective leadership is one of the critical qualities of high-performing teams. Leadership style is how the leader influences a team to accomplish a common goal and consists of both the leader's attributes and behaviors:

  • Leadership Behavior – is how a leader responds within the leadership system. A behavior is something that can be seen and described.

  • Leadership Attribute – is an inherent quality of a leader as perceived by others.

In today’s turbulent and fast-paced digital marketplace, leaders are challenged to quickly discern and apply an appropriate leadership style that brings out the best in followers. Servant leadership, transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and spiritual leadership are four emerging leadership styles gaining increased attention globally for their proven benefits. While similar, these leadership styles are not the same, and often each leadership challenge requires a blended style approach. To learn more about how these leadership styles compare, check out this article on 4 Emerging Leadership Styles and Why You Should Care.