What Is Functional Leadership? (With Features and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When developing teams and creating structures, team leaders often adopt models that help clarify decision-making and achieve goals faster. For instance, a team lead may adopt the dynamic leadership style to ensure that team members take responsibility while getting the resources required for their duties. Understanding the different components and how to implement this leadership style can help you maximize its benefits and increase team productivity. In this article, we define functional leadership, list its characteristics, outline its benefits, and show steps on how you can implement this leadership style at work.

What is functional leadership?

Functional leadership is a leadership style based on exploring the different behaviours and actions influencing effective leadership instead of electing a single individual to lead. This leadership style also involves sharing these methods with major stakeholders, as it influences their decisions. While this leadership approach is mostly theoretical, practical approaches can improve efficiency. You may also adopt this approach in developing a leadership-based team to increase empowerment, productivity, and autonomy.

Characteristics of dynamic leadership

Dynamic leadership focuses mainly on empowering all stakeholders instead of electing a single leader. Some of the components you can adopt to establish this leadership model are:

Prioritizing varying needs

Before beginning a task or project, defining and properly communicating group goals is important. You may also ensure that the resources for these goals are available while you set milestones to ensure goal accomplishment and success. Three major needs that fall under this leadership structure include group needs, task needs, and individual needs. While these needs may combine for a single project, separating and defining them is important.

Related: What Is a Cost Leadership Strategy? (Definition and Guide)

Focusing on actions

When practising the dynamic leadership style, each team member is a leader. Although the team may task a single individual with maintaining and organizing the group, every other team member has responsibilities that directly contribute to team success. The dynamic leadership style focuses heavily on each team member's actions as a contributor to team success rather than a single individual's actions.

Related: What Is Level 5 Leadership? (With Definition and Skills)

Being goal driven

Under the dynamic leadership style, you may determine the success of the leader and the group by measuring the completed project and the impact of achievement. It also involves realizing an established goal based on key performance metrics. Companies that practise dynamic leadership usually focus on the final project outcome rather than the group leader's actions.

Being flexible

The term leader is flexible under the dynamic leadership style. While a single leader may initiate a project, their leadership role may be extended to different team members to accomplish the project goals. In addition, different team members may assume flexible leadership roles for different projects or aspects of a single project. Their leadership roles may be dependent on such factors as expertise or level of experience.

Categorizing duties

A major goal of dynamic leadership is determining project and task needs for different individuals. As a result, it's useful to clarify individual duties and expected outcomes. It's also important that everyone knows what to do and has access to the tools and resources that they require to complete their duties.

Related: A Guide to Project Management Leadership Styles (With Tips)

Staying organized

After assigning roles and clarifying objectives, the tasks for a project become largely autonomous. Because of this autonomy, employees require structure and clear organization for the project to be successful. In addition, you may ensure a sufficient record of project needs and assigned duties so that the team can evaluate and measure success at the end of the project period.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Maintaining motivation

One of the core duties of a functional leader is to keep the team motivated through the project execution process. Depending on the organizational structure and your responsibilities, you may delegate some of your responsibilities to focus on more pressing tasks. Keeping the team motivated ensures they complete these tasks efficiently and make a meaningful contribution throughout the process.

Ensuring control

While the idea of leadership under a dynamic leadership system may appear decentralized, keeping the team in control is important. This control also involves staying aware of project objectives and their times, including the different employees that are responsible. It also involves providing the resources for the project and finding ways to save time, energy, and money. The dynamic leadership system aims at maintaining control despite having various team members contributing to the project's success.

Related: What Is Leadership in an Organization? (With a How-to Guide)

Modelling behaviours

As a project lead or manager, your core duty includes modelling appropriate employee behaviour during the execution phase. This duty aims at ensuring that employees dedicate themselves to given tasks while relating with others on the team professionally and respectfully. These work policies help set out acceptable standards of behaviour while ensuring inclusivity and mutual respect. In addition, it helps team members communicate clearly while promoting transparency.

Guiding approach

While this leadership system encourages work autonomy for employees, it may still require general oversight and guidance. As the team lead, ensure that you constantly check on each group member and understand their task as they progress towards common goals. You may also provide feedback and redirect efforts. Depending on the team size, you may create sub-systems within the team where colleagues completing similar tasks can collaborate and check on each other. Guiding task execution ensures that each team member understands mutual goals and can perform their duties appropriately before the deadline.

Benefits of dynamic leadership

Some of the most common benefits of the dynamic leadership style include:

  • Develops skills: Under the dynamic leadership model, team members can develop relevant leadership skills without being the official team lead.

  • Empowers individuals: When practising the dynamic leadership system as a manager, you may empower other employees to develop their abilities as they work autonomously.

  • Establishes team cohesion: Dynamic leadership structure helps teams achieve cohesion by establishing the project and team needs while delegating tasks appropriately.

  • Promotes appropriate behaviour: The dynamic leadership model helps team members understand and comply with appropriate work behaviour based on policies set by the designated supervisor.

  • Redefines leadership capability: The dynamic leadership model allows different individuals to take on leadership responsibilities instead of designating the leadership position to a single individual exclusively. This can increase the team's feeling of responsibility for the success of the project.

Read more: Functional Organization Structure: Pros and Cons

How to implement dynamic leadership

Here are some steps you can take in implementing and getting optimal results from the dynamic leadership system:

1. Review team tasks

The first step in establishing the dynamic leadership model is evaluating set tasks or projects. You may first evaluate the task personally and then with team members. Ensure everyone understands the goals and steps required to meet them. Next, highlight general duties that may lead the team to achieve these objectives.

Related: How to Develop Cross-Functional Teams for Your Company

2. Assign duties

Next, assign tasks and duties to team members. You may assign these tasks randomly or according to individual strengths and abilities so that you get the best output for each assignment. In addition, you may answer any possible questions and provide clarification regarding the individual duties and the project. The goal is to ensure that each team member understands their deliverables and expectations.

3. Identify needs

After assigning tasks, you may identify the needs of the team that are necessary to achieve the set goals. These needs may include general organizational, team, or individual needs based on assigned tasks. You may list the resources that the team requires to complete the project and factor them into the planning process.

4. Motivate the team

While team members work on their assigned tasks, you may devise means to keep them motivated. For instance, you may plan regular stand-up meetings to discuss progress, address concerns, and remind the team of the collective goal. Keeping the team motivated helps increase morale and improve productivity. When motivating the team, give them space and autonomy to complete their tasks while keeping the line of communication open.

5. Model behaviour

As the functional leader, you may decide on means to model team behaviour. You may achieve this by setting codes for acceptable standards of behaviour, such as work and employee policies. Modelling employee behaviour positively influences work ethic and helps employees understand acceptable conduct while improving interactions.

6. Check-in regularly

You can make a note to check in regularly with employees as they complete their tasks. For instance, you may discuss task updates one-on-one with employees while ensuring they're on track. You may gather feedback and team members' ideas on how they think the project can progress better as you provide the necessary resources. Ensure you keep the check-ins brief, so the employees have enough time to complete their tasks autonomously.

7. Assess objectives

As every team member completes their project, you may set up a team meeting to discuss the project outcomes. During these meetings, the team may critically analyze the project output while highlighting areas they can improve upon next time. You may appraise individual tasks and identify strengths. Assessing team objectives helps members contribute to the project management process, strengthening their leadership skills. It also helps the team identify lessons they can use to improve future projects.

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