Team Leadership

Course: Team Leadership

Why Do Some Teams Succeed and Others Fail?

Overview and Rationale

The highly regarded philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This, in part, explains why we study group dynamics and teamwork – to understand how successful teams operate and what we can do to avoid failure. History is replete with examples of successful and unsuccessful teams. If we know anything about great leaders it’s that they use history to their advantage. This course examines principles of building and leading highly effective teams by reviewing/reinforcing proven leadership concepts and analyzing the variety of interrelated practices underlying group dynamics.

Assignment Objectives

• Students will research a team and apply the material they have learned during the first few weeks of this course to analyze why the team is successful or unsuccessful.

 • Students will connect personal experiences with course material learned to date, citing course readings, lectures, and discussions.

 • Students will analyze their thoughts about team leadership by reflecting on the content and activities learned during the first half of the course.

• Students will recognize obstacles and strengths to their own development as team leaders and identify solutions or plans on how to overcome those obstacles or develop those strengths.

This assignment focuses on your understanding of how and why teams succeed, with an emphasis on the kinds of leadership they require. You will work on understanding, analyzing and implementing choices related to team-related situations. In doing this, you are expected to demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical foundations of group dynamics as they apply to leading real-world teams. Using lecture materials, readings, personal research, and the various discussions you have had with classmates and the instructor, you will advance your understanding of teamwork and how to lead successful teams.


Both successful and unsuccessful teams are the products of many factors, not the least of which are leadership, organizational culture, communications, diversity, etc. When teams succeed these factors most often work synergistically. Conversely, when they fail, these factors either work independent of each other or they are not being effectively used.

You are responsible for researching and analyzing either a current or past real-world team and include the following:

 • Short history and background of the team your researched, and how it was formed; • Identify the leadership style of the team leader(s), and the role that he, she, or they played in in the success or failure of the team;

 • Discuss how the team dealt with conflicts;

• Identify and explain the primary means of communication used by the team and how effective it was;

• Explain what you would do differently as the team’s leader;

• Identify your individual strengths in leading this team, i.e. why it would succeed under your leadership.

The following are examples of successful and less-than-successful teams. You are welcome to use one of them for your assignment – you can also use the team you currently work with, or one that you have experience with.

Successful teams:

• Apple Corporation’s Mac team, under the leadership of Steve Jobs

• NASA’s efforts to bring Apollo 13 back to earth

 • Manhattan Project – creation of the atomic bomb

• Java Development Team at Sun Microsystems

• The team that founded Google

 • Casper Sleep – mattress company formed in 2014

 • Hewlett Packard

Less-than-successful teams:

 • Planet Hollywood

• Fruit of the Loom

• Commodore International

• Wang Laboratories

• Orion Pictures

• Drexel Burnham Lambert

Assignment Details

5 pages (does not include title page, abstract, or reference page) – double spaced – 12 font – APA style

Weight: 15 points out of a possible 100 points for the course

Grading Criteria (refer to the rubric for additional information):

1. Understand (Rigor): Use of conceptual frameworks for self-awareness and reflection in team leadership;

2. Analyze (Depth & critical thinking): Critical evaluation of researched information, effective assimilation of research and course material, and clear conclusions that are supported by the available information;

3. Implement (Relevance and growth-based): Examine the reasons for the team’s success or failure, with an emphasis on what you would do as the team leader. Identify clear and detailed recommendations and courses of action;

4. Presentation: Clarity of writing. Reliance on rubrics in English writing.

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