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Leadership Styles: The Science of Functional Teams


Have you ever worked with a team that made you want to pull your hair out? Was it the product of one squeaky wheel or did it seem like nobody could get on the same page?

Great teams take all kinds! But having all kinds creates an opportunity for members to be misunderstood. So how do you get polar opposites to work together toward the same goal? In The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success, Les McKeown argues that without a “Synergist,” every great team will implode or simply underperform.


Here are some of the tools a Synergist uses to help their team.

Synergist Tools

First, let's back up and talk about leadership types. There are three “natural” categories of leadership styles: Visionaries, Processors, and Operators.

  • Visionaries are big thinkers with big ideas. They are drained by small details and love uncertainty. They need to create, and create quickly!
  • The Processor does just that, processes. They bring order to every situation and think not only about what needs to be done, but what systems can be put in place to create repeatable outcomes. They are analytical and value routines.
  • Operators are doers; they get shit done and fast. They are practical and action-oriented, relentlessly working toward their desired objective.

How These Styles Interact

In its simplest form, the Visionary has the idea, the Operator turns that into actionable tasks, and the Processor monitors the system to make sure the process is efficient.

When we think of the character traits of each of these leadership styles, it’s no wonder people get frustrated with one another! The Processor’s need for details bores the Visionary; the Operator’s need to get things done quickly unnerves the Processor, and the Visionary’s need for creative breaks frustrate the Operator. I’m sure you can see how this is a giant triangle waiting to implode!

Get The Synergist

So how do organizations get past the triangle of diverse agendas and create a functioning team? Enter the Synergist, an individual capable of putting their own ego aside to promote what is best for the organization and interpret the languages of vastly different personalities. Although rare, natural Synergists do exist. Instead, many of the skills in their toolbox are learned from mentors, observation, and self-awareness.

So what does the Synergist do?

  • Interpret - They scan team interactions and clear up miscommunications.
  • Elevate - At key moments, they help the V, O, or P elevate to the Synergist role so they can see the problem from a “higher” perspective.
  • Choreograph - They help the V, O, and P interact in the most efficient ways possibleConnect - They help draw out information and insights from every participant so that others may do their job effectively.
  • Harmonize - They facilitate a unified product from everyone's interactions.
  • Move Forward - Synergists are often most visible during the beginning and end of a project. They help set goals and the rules of engagement, take a step back to observe as the others work their magic, and step back in to finalize a harmonized result.

The Recipe For A Great Team

Great teams require a range of personalities to get the job done. What makes some of us tick, frustrates or worries others. The role of the Synergist is to see the entire picture and help the entire team communicate effectively.


But the biggest thing to remember is that every single one of us is capable of taking on the role of the synergist.

We are all unique and posses strengths that can help organizations succeed. And when we learn the skills that help facilitate team interactions, amazing things can happen!


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