Look up any clipart representation of the word “leadership” and chances are you will come across something looking like the first picture. The leader is always shown in the middle, with his or her team members in a neat circle around. And the secret to being an effective team leader is shown through the different arrows. These represent the trust the leader creates with each of his members, how he or she communicates with them, what targets or goals they are given. That is the neat representation of team leadership.

The reality looks more like the second picture. Of course the relationships of the leader, still shown in the middle, with each of the team members is important. But in reality, there are not 8 but in total 35 connections and therefore relationships going on in this team. So as a team leader, you may excel in the 8 relationships you are a part of, but the reality of the team, and how it performs, is much more complex. You may have a trustworthy relationship with each of the people in the outer circle, but does that automatically mean all these team members have an equally trusting relationship with one another ?

There are two ways to look at the second picture. The first is to say, “Wow, this is way too complex to even try to do anything about it”. The second is to say “Wow … look at all the potential there is in this team if all 35 connections and relationships are working optimally”.

Way too much leadership tools, blogs and books focus on the person in the red in the middle. The real power of teams lies as much in the other 27 connections and how well these sync. I continue to be amazed how little effort leaders put in the actual development of their team, in other words, in the 27 relationships that make up the team connections. So here is a question to you: what can you do, as the leader in red in the middle, to optimize these 27 connections that you are not directly part of ? I am interested to read your thoughts !