Bridging Faultlines in Diverse Teams
S U M M E R 2 0 0 7 V O L . 4 8 N O. 4
R E P R I N T N U M B E R 4 8 4 1 1
Lynda Gratton, Andreas Voigt and Tamara Erickson
Please note that gray areas reflect artwork that has been intentionally removed. The substantive content of the article appears as originally published.
22 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW SUMMER 2007
O r g a n i z at i O n
ompanies create diverse teams to take on their most complex challenges —
tasks across boundaries, functions and geographies that no single department
or function could accomplish. Yet guiding these diverse teams to success re-
quires some counterintuitive management practices. In particular, team
leaders should focus on tasks at the early stages, rather than on interpersonal relationships,
and then switch to relationship building when the time is right.
In a recent study of teams at large companies, we found that diverse membership of
teams and task forces is becoming the order of the day. Take Nokia Corp., which frequently
brings together disparate talent from different departments among its businesses around
the globe, while at the same time partnering with many external suppliers. Or consider the
British Broadcasting Corporation, which routinely creates huge teams for events, such as
the production and broadcast teams for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2008 Olympic
Games. These typically involve groups of more than 100 people, a high proportion of whom
are not full-time employees. Team members often represent more than 15 different nation-
alities, with skill sets ranging from electrical work to intellectual property, from scheduling
to production. The BBC’s teams also face the daunting challenge of a one-shot deal for
which execution has to be right the first time.
The challenges that Nokia and the BBC face are by no means unique. Between 2004 and
2006, we partnered with executives from 15 large European and American companies to study
55 of their teams. What was most striking about these teams was their sheer size and complex-
ity. The diversity of Nokia’s design team — with men and women of many nationalities and
with a wide range of ages, representing multiple functions from many different businesses
— was repeated in companies in many different industries from across the globe. Companies
in the media industry (such as Reuters Group PLC and the BBC), in telecommunications
(such as France Telecom and Canadian wireless giant Rogers Communications Inc.) and in
banking (such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lehman Brothers Inc.) all employ large and
diverse teams to attack some of their most difficult problems. Many of the teams in the study
numbered more than 50 people, all had more than three nationalities represented and most
brought in people from several functions and businesses. (See “About the Research,” p. 24.)
Bridging Faultlines in Diverse Teams
Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School. She is the author of Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces and Organizations Buzz With Energy — and Others Don’t (San Fran-cisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007). Andreas Voigt is a research assistant in organizational behavior at London Business School. Tamara Erickson is president of the Concours Institute, the research and education arm of the Concours Group, a professional services company headquartered in Kingwood, Texas, and a coau-thor of Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006). Comment on this article or contact the authors through firstname.lastname@example.org.
CProject teams can fly
or founder on the
of team members and
the fractures they can
create. Here’s how to
recognize the potential
for division, and how
to respond in time when
team fractures do arise.
Andreas Voigt and
SUMMER 2007 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 23
Companies form these teams precisely because they bring to
bear the range of experiences and attitudes that will ensure that
the final product or service will be market-sensitive and innova-
tive — more so than an offering designed by a group of people
with similar characteristics.1 Paradoxically, however, the very
nature of team diversity often creates challenges that reduce the
team’s innovative capacity and even significantly lessen its overall
effectiveness. So while business heads may wish for innovation
through diversity, what they sometimes achieve is reduced pro-
ductivity and efficiency.2
How Diverse Teams Fail, and How Some SucceedThe teams in our study failed in many different ways. Some
could not deliver on time; others fell short of the hoped-for
productivity; still others were unable to produce innovative re-
sults. Some teams broke up in acrimony and
bad feeling; some foundered in incompe-
tence. They were a litany of what could go
wrong. Many executives had been trained to
manage rather simple teams but were sur-
prised at just how hard it is to create a
high-performing team of diverse people.
Analyzing these problems uncovered two
root failures. The first was a failure of collabo-
ration, in which team members did not
develop trust and goodwill among them-
selves.3 The second was a failure of knowledge
sharing, in which team members withheld
their individual knowledge from other team
members or from other teams.4
Why is it so fiendishly difficult to enable
high-performing, diverse teams? To under-
stand the nature of the collaborative and
knowledge-sharing failures, we looked closely
at the demography of the teams. Using com-
plex statistical modeling, we created a unique
demographic profile for each team that took
into account team members’ ages, genders,
nationalities, education levels, functions and
tenures within the company. The model ex-
amined the configurations as a whole and the
interplay of different demographic attributes.
Close examination of these team dem-
ographic profiles revealed that in many cases
the failures in collaboration and knowledge
sharing were a direct result of faultlines —
subgroups or coalitions that emerge naturally
within teams, typically along various dem-
ographic lines. (See “An Overview of Faultline
Theory,” p. 25 for causes and characteristics
of faultlines.) These faultlines split the teams into subgroups
that were based on shared demographic characteristics. When
faultlines emerge, subgroups rarely collaborate with other sub-
groups, instead tending to share knowledge only within their
subgroup. Yet knowledge sharing across subgroups is critical for
complex teams to operate effectively.5
Despite the emergence of faultlines in many of the 55 teams,
some teams were able to work collaboratively and share knowl-
edge. Deeper analysis of these productive and innovative teams
showed that a defining factor was the behavior of the team leader
and the way in which she or he structured the leadership role.
Thus, although faultlines are a common hazard, some executives
are able to reduce the problems associated with diverse teams
and, indeed, to enhance the benefits.
In particular, the executives’ leadership style and the manner
24 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW SUMMER 2007
in which they prioritized actions significantly reduced the extent
to which faultlines hindered collaboration and the flow of knowl-
edge. By studying the way these executives behaved, we are able
to make recommendations about leading diverse teams. How-
ever, while some of the recommendations are straightforward,
others are deeply counterintuitive and defy the received wisdom
about good management practice.
The Emergence of FaultlinesTo illustrate this seeming paradox, consider a team from a tele-
com company in our study. Think of the faultlines in this team
as analogous to geologic fractures in the Earth’s crust. Like geo-
logic fractures, faultlines can remain dormant and invisible for
some time. Geologic fractures explode as earthquakes when put
under immense pressure. The same is true of team faultlines,
which cross multiple layers of demography. In many cases, the
tensions of the faultlines emerge under the pressure of a com-
plex, time-dependent task.
The stated goal of the telecom team was to bring together
several parts of the business to build an innovative product and
service offering for one of the company’s major multinational
clients. Many of the client’s needs were standard, but meeting
their expectations would require the creation of a rather complex
service and delivery process. A business unit head was assigned
leadership of the new project and given charge of a core group of
22 people. She had to bring together the remainder of the team,
which was expected to total 48 people, from the four countries in
which the client had significant operations (Germany, the United
States, Japan and France), drawing from three functions (tech-
nology, marketing and operations). Although this may seem a
rather large and diverse team, many of the teams studied were of
a comparable size and complexity.
Initial Faultline Formation Is Based On Surface-Level Attributes The telecom team members began to get to know one another
through face-to-face encounters and e-mails. Within a short
time, however, the initial faultlines began to emerge. These fault-
lines were drawn around readily detectable demographic
attributes — for example, the team members’ age, gender and
functional background. Team members typically use obvious
characteristics to assign themselves and others to subgroups. In
this team, an early faultline emerged between a subgroup of male
technical engineers and a subgroup of female marketing special-
ists. Other subgroups rapidly emerged: for example, between
people of French nationality (many of whom had been in the
company for years and were typically in their 40s and 50s) and
Americans (many of whom had joined the company recently and
were in their 20s and 30s). Note that none of these subgroups was
based on a unitary dimension but rather on the combination of
multiple dimensions (gender and function in the first case; na-
tionality, age and job tenure in the second). A strong faultline
emerged because the team members fell into distinct, nonover-
lapping subgroups based on demographic attributes. (See “The
Emergence of Faultlines in a Telecom Team,” p. 26.)
As a rule, when subgroups emerge within complex teams, each
tends to see itself as an “in-group” — people like us, who we like
because we have something in common — and those across the
boundary of the faultline as an “out-group” — people not like us,
whose interests we may find puzzling. Each subgroup within the
telecom team collaborated closely among its members, who all
got to know, like and trust one another. In a sense, what each
subgroup was doing was learning more about what its members
already knew. This deepening of knowledge can be crucial as a
team builds professional insight and muscle. However, for a team
to become truly innovative, the combination of knowledge across
subgroups is essential.6
As members of the telecom team’s subgroups began to iden-
tify more strongly with one another, the team leader came to
understand that the emerging faultlines had negative conse-
quences. The dealings across the subgroups became a source of
tension and conflict, particularly under the pressure of task dead-
O r g a n i z at i O n
We studied 55 workgroups in 15 European and American
companies (ABN AMRO, BBC, BP, Citigroup, France Telecom,
Lehman Brothers, Marriott, Nokia, PricewaterhouseCoopers,
Reuters, Rogers Communications, Royal Bank of Scotland,
Siemens AG, Standard Chartered Bank and XL Global Serv-
ices). The study was based on a quantitative survey of
1,543 members of the workgroups and their leaders. The
teams ranged in size from four to 184 people, with an av-
erage team size of 43 members. Most of the teams were
diverse in terms of gender (32% women), age (ranging
from 4% under 25 to 15% over 46), nationality (26% Brit-
ish, 23% American, 23% European, 15% Asian and 13% rest
of world) and education level (7% high school diploma,
50% undergraduate degree, 37% master’s degree, and 6%
doctorate). We achieved a 64% response rate.
We measured demographic faultline strength along six
demographic variables: gender, age, nationality, educa-
tion, work function and tenure in the company. We
applied a statistical procedure that produced an overall
quantitative index of faultline strength by combining the
effects of all individual attributes. We used multiple re-
gression analyses to identify the faultlines and to control
for the size of the group, the degree of task complexity,
the geographical distance between team members and
About the Research
SUMMER 2007 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 25
lines. For example, the predominately male engineers at one stage
refused to allow the predominately female marketing group ac-
cess to some of their product findings. The story was that this
information was too technically sophisticated for the marketing
function; the reality was that the engineering subgroup did not
want to let go of their valuable knowledge. The subgroups just
didn’t seem to understand one another — they did not know the
other’s interior language, and they did not understand the other’s
key concepts and models.
Deep-Level Attributes Come Into Play At Later Stages of Team Development As complex teams develop and group members get
to know more about one another, a deeper layer of faultlines
becomes visible — this time based not on surface-level attri-
butes but rather on subtler, deep-level attributes such as personal
values, dispositions and attitudes. At the time of a team’s forma-
tion, these deeper-level attributes are not visible. They emerge as
team members interact with one another and reveal themselves
through their actions, words and what they choose to disclose
about their personal lives.7
In the telecom company team, a later set of subgroups also
formed around values, disposition and
attributes. A faultline surfaced between
those members with cooperative values
and a subgroup of people with more
The Leader’s Role in FaultlinesIn the geological analogy to faultlines,
various external factors (such as pres-
sure) have an impact on how a fault
actually fractures. Similarly, many as-
pects of a team’s context can affect the
extent to which faultlines impact the
team’s performance. Two examples are
the extent of the cooperative culture in
which the team operates and the de-
gree to which team members believe
senior executives work across bound-
aries. The most important factor in
determining whether destructive fault-
lines emerged was the style of leader,
and in particular the extent to which
the group’s leader was task-oriented or
relationship-oriented.8 Some leaders in
the study were able to adjust their lead-
ership styles as the project progressed,
beginning with a task orientation and
then switching to a relationship orien-
tation, or beginning with a relationship
orientation and switching to a task orientation. (See “The Four
Paths of Leadership Style,” p. 27.)
Path 1: Task Orientation In this pathway, the team leader uses a
strong and consistent task-oriented leadership style, as perceived
by team members, during the entire life of the team or project.
The leader can do this by creating a detailed project plan, build-
ing tight schedules for the work and emphasizing performance
goals that are high but realistic. This type of leader places great
emphasis on the task at hand, so he or she strives to remain ac-
cessible at all times and provide information that team members
need to carry out their day-to-day work. Leaders who follow this
pathway are often technically proficient — and they see their role
as providing the team with the technical and specialist assistance
critical to the task.
Path 2: Relationship Orientation This type of leader places par-
ticular emphasis on the culture of the team and on the extent
and depth of relationships among team members. They do this
by treating team members with kindness and respect, encourag-
ing a climate of trust and cooperation and providing recognition
Faultline theory explains how a combination and the configuration of the attributes of
team members can influence the team’s behavior and ultimately its performance. The
attributes that drive faultlines can be surface-level or deep-level. Readily detectable at-
tributes such as gender, age, nationality and education are surface-level. Underlying,
or deep-level, attributes include values, personality and knowledge.
Strong faultlines emerge in a team when there are a few fairly homogeneous
subgroups that are able to identify themselves. Weak faultlines can emerge in two
rather different configurations. Faultlines generally do not emerge, or do so only
weakly, when all the members of the team are rather similar (for example, the same
age and job function). However, at the other end of the spectrum, faultlines also are
unlikely to emerge when there is heterogeneity — when the members of the team
are all very different from one another (for example, different ages and working in
different job functions).
Strong faultlines are particularly likely to emerge when all the demographic attrib-
utes of the members of the subgroups form distinct, nonoverlapping categories. For
example, a strong faultline will emerge if all women in a team are over 50 years old and
all the men are under 30. In this example, gender and age have formed a single, strong
Whether a faultline emerges depends on how apparent the attribute is to members
of the team. As the team members get to know each other better and learn what is
similar and what is different, the possible sources of potential faultlines increase.
Strong faultlines can create a fracture in the social fabric of the team. This fracture
can become a source of tension and a barrier to the creation of trust and goodwill and
to the exchange of knowledge and information. Inevitably, therefore, when strong
faultlines emerge, the team’s creative and innovative capacity is severely limited.
An Overview of Faultline Theory
26 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW SUMMER 2007
and appreciation for individual and group accomplishments.
These leaders are often skilled communicators and listeners.
Path 3: Task Orientation, Switching to Relationship Orientation In this
pathway, the leader begins with a strong task-oriented style by
setting targets and scheduling work. As the project progresses,
these leaders encourage team members to collaborate with one
another and work to increase the general trust and goodwill
within the team.
Path 4: Relationship Orientation, Switching to Task Orientation This
type of leader begins by creating a feeling of trust within the
team, putting an emphasis on socialization and meetings. As the
project progresses, these leaders move to a more task-oriented
approach by setting clear goals and standards and carefully
monitoring the group’s progress.
Which, if any, of these leadership paths is most appropriate
when there are strong faultlines in a team? Where it is likely
strong faultlines will emerge, the natural tendency of many lead-
ers is to encourage team members to come together through
meetings and socializing. In effect, these leaders take Path 2.
However, this leadership action actually increases the likelihood
that faultlines will strengthen: when team members simply so-
cialize, their differences become more apparent, and the fractures
in the team can solidify.
In fact, a leader can significantly mitigate faultlines — but not
in the most obvious manner. To increase collaboration and
knowledge sharing across teams with strong faultlines, leaders
need to vary their leadership style according to how long the
team has been together. There are times when a task-oriented
style works very well and other times when a relationship orien-
tation would be more appropriate.
Recommendations For Leading Diverse Teams The leaders of complex teams should take four actions:
1. Diagnose the Probability of Faultlines Emerging At the outset of
a project, team leaders should think very carefully about the
diversity in their team and strive to predict as accurately as pos-
sible the probability of faultlines emerging. (See “The
Probability of Strong Faultlines Emerging in a Team,” p. 28 for
a short questionnaire that provides a way of gauging this likeli-
hood.) It is important to remember that faultlines are not a
natural result of diversity per se but are found in situations of
moderate diversity, when a team is neither very homogeneous
nor very heterogeneous in member attributes. A medium de-
gree of diversity leads to the emergence of only a
few fairly homogeneous subgroups. The divides
between these subgroups create the tensions that
can impede the team’s functioning.
If there is a high probability of subgroups and
faultlines emerging, then the leader should empha-
size a task-oriented leadership style in the early
stages of the project.
2. Focus on Task Orientation When a Team Is Newly Formed As previously mentioned, the inclination
for many leaders when they saw faultlines emerg-
ing in a new team was to focus on the relationships
between members of the subgroups. The leaders
created opportunities for people to get to know
one another better, hoping that socializing would
cause the faultlines to be bridged. Yet this exacer-
bates the problem. Simply put, in a team’s early
going, the more people interact with one another,
the more likely they are to make snap judgments
and to emphasize their differences.
A better strategy for leaders of teams with poten-
tial faultlines is to create energy around the task
itself. This was clearly visible in teams at the Royal
Bank of Scotland. In these teams — even those with
strong faultlines — collaboration and knowledge
sharing were strengthened through a host of task-
O r g a n i z at i O n
Faultlines quickly emerged around obvious demographic attributes with
the formation of a team in a telecommunications company. None of the
subgroups was based on a unitary dimension but rather on the combina-
tion of multiple dimensions (gender and function in the first case;
nationality, age and job tenure in the second).
The Emergence of Faultlines in a Telecom Team
SUMMER 2007 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 27
oriented characteristics. At the beginning of team formation,
leaders created very detailed descriptions of realistic perfor-
mance goals. Next, the work was planned and scheduled with
precision: Every project was on a 30-day, 60-day or 90-day time-
table. At this early stage, much effort was focused on providing
the necessary resources and coordinating team members’ activi-
ties. Team members learned about one another’s skills and
competencies rather than about their personalities and lives.
This task orientation focused the attention of team members on
performance and requirements. Subgroups did emerge, but they
revolved around task-oriented characteristics such as functional
expertise and education, rather than personality differences. By
learning who they could go to for particular types of informa-
tion, the subgroups at Royal Bank of Scotland were able to move
swiftly into the task itself
However, while this approach increases the early effectiveness
of teams, it is not as useful for dealing with some of the tensions
that later emerge, such as around deeper personality traits and
differences in values. To do this, team leaders must learn how and
when to switch leadership styles.
3. Learn When to Make the Switch Focusing on the task is crucial
to the early effectiveness of a team in which strong faultlines are
expected to emerge. However, if the team is to be effective in the
longer term, then the leader has to switch styles from task ori-
entation to relationship orientation. If the leader fails to make
this switch, the team will slowly become less effective, as ob-
served in one of the media teams in our study. The team leader
began with a task orientation, coordinating the
team’s activities, creating clear schedules and
providing technical support. This support from
the top initially ensured that the subgroups
learned more about each other and began the
process of sharing knowledge. At the same
time, the leader’s capacity to clearly state the
team’s mission and create a common goal en-
sured that the subgroups became strongly
aligned to a common purpose despite the fault-
lines already running through the team. The
members of the team began to feel that they
were united in a goal that was greater than the
differences among the subgroups.
Over time, however, deep-level faultlines in
this complex and diverse team began to emerge
and become increasingly important. The major
faultlines initially had formed around func-
tional specialization and nationality. The
media team’s creative designers came mostly
from the West Coast of the United States, while
the production teams were located on the East
Coast and in Germany. These differences were bridged by the
clear sense of a shared task and goals created by the team
leader. Later, though, subgroups began to form around the at-
tributes and personalities of group members. A subgroup of
high-energy, highly competitive people (known as Type A per-
sonalities) began to form. These are people who like to work
under pressure and create pressure for others, who enjoy the
rush of adrenaline and love competing.9 Members of this sub-
group were drawn from the West and East coasts of the United
States and from Germany; some were men, some were women;
some old, some young. Their deep-level Type A characteristic
cut across the surface-level characteristics.
As the original faultlines began to be bridged through a
shared task, this new personality-based, deep-level faultline be-
came an increasing source of conflict and tension. Those outside
the Type A category created names for them (“the crazies,” “the
no-lifers”), while the Type A subgroup became frustrated by
what they saw as slowness and a lack of focus from the others.
The task-oriented leader — who also had a Type A personality
— failed at this point to switch styles, instead continuing to plan,
organize, schedule and create tasks. Since the Type A subgroup
was the most vocal (and the team leader was a member of the
subgroup), the schedules simply became faster- and faster-paced
and the task demands more and more frequent. Conflicts arose
often, and those outside the Type A subgroup became more iso-
lated, demotivated and unhappy.
This discord came to a head during a performance meeting.
The business unit head overseeing the project criticized the team
The most important factor in determining whether destructive faultlines
emerged in a team was the style of its leader and, in particular, the extent
to which the leader acted along a continuum of task orientation and rela-
The Four Paths of Leadership Style
Path 3Path 2
28 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW SUMMER 2007
leader for the lack of innovative ideas coming from the team.
The team was fast-paced, but the results were often boring and
predictable. Looking back, this outcome should have been no
surprise: Some of the most creative members of the team were
not among the Type A subgroup, whose members were calling
all the shots. Yet those outside the dominant subgroup lacked the
power to slow down the program, argue for time for reflection
or get their creative ideas heard and discussed.10
The team leader had failed to read the signs that called
for switching from task-oriented leadership to relationship-
oriented leadership. The Type A subgroup was able to dominate
by overly influencing the agenda and taking most of the
4. Switch to Relationship Building When the Time Is Right In the
media company example, the team leader had built an effective
team but not an innovative team. The leader had failed to make
the switch that characterizes Path 3 of leadership.
A team leader did follow the third path in one of the fi-
nance companies studied. At one point, tensions were coming
to the fore around different values and personalities among
team members. The team leader — who previously had been
predominately task-oriented — was able to switch to a more
relationship-oriented style. Over the course of a few weeks, the
leader brought the team together for several social activities,
surfaced and talked openly about the tensions the members of
the team felt and showed respect to the various work styles and
values in the group.
Developing Better Teams and Team LeadersSo how does a team leader know when to switch from task ori-
entation to relationship orientation? The switch will be
successful only at the point at which the team has sufficient
shared experience to have developed a clear protocol for com-
munication and coordination of activities and an established
As a guideline, when all members of a team have developed
specific expectations for the project and have negotiated a
O r g a n i z at i O n
For team leaders: This short survey will show you the probability
of a strong faultline emerging in your team. Rate your team
members against these four elements:
1. The number of nationalities in the team
a. Team members are all of the same nationality.
b. There are two nationalities.
c. There are three to five nationalities.
d. There are six to 10 nationalities.
e. There are more than 11 nationalities.
2. The current age, education and gender of the team members
a. The majority are the same gender and about the same age
and have the same education level.
b. The majority are the same gender and have the same educa-
tion level but are of different ages.
c. The majority are of the same age and have the same educa-
tion level and are both men and women.
d. The majority are the same age and gender and have differ-
ent education levels.
e. The team contains both men and women of different ages
and education levels.
3. The current business location of team members
a. They are all from the same function and the same business.
b. They are all from different functions in the same businesses.
c. They are all from different functions and different busi-
nesses within the company.
d. They are from different businesses and functions in the
company and from longstanding partners from outside the
e. They are from different parts of the company and include
longstanding partners of the company and new partners
and customers of the company.
4. The values and aspirations of the team
a. All members of the team have very similar values, disposi-
tions and attitudes.
b. Many members of the team share values, dispositions and
c. There is a clear divide between groups with regard to values,
dispositions and attitudes.
d. Many people have different values, dispositions and attitudes.
e. There is a great deal of variety in values, dispositions and
Low probability of faultlines emerging:
Scoring mostly a’s and b’s — The team is relatively simple and
homogeneous, so it is unlikely that faultlines will emerge.
Scoring mostly e’s — The team is heterogeneous. Therefore, it is
unlikely that faultlines will emerge.
High probability of faultlines emerging:
Scoring mostly c’s and d’s — This team has a high potential for fault-
lines to emerge because a medium degree of diversity tends to lead
to the development of only a few fairly homogeneous subgroups.
The Probability of Strong Faultlines Emerging in a Team
SUMMER 2007 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 29
widely accepted influence structure, then the time is right to
switch to a relationship-oriented leadership style. Instilling
confidence in the team and creating opportunities to socialize
at that point helps the development of new abilities and allows
the team to grow. However, if the team is still trying to learn
the specifics of the project, clarify people’s roles and negotiate
members’ status and authority, then the switch would come
too early and would only amplify the underlying tensions be-
This provides important guidelines for managers who head
diverse teams, which are tasked with some of the most impor-
tant and difficult challenges that companies face. But it also
points to an important new development challenge for execu-
tives. Not only do future leaders need to develop solid program
management skills and confident interpersonal skills but they
also need to learn which leadership style to emphasize, based on
their team’s needs and characteristics. Providing team leaders
with a framework for assessing faultlines will give them the in-
sights needed to overcome the divisions and move teams toward
achieving their, and the company’s, ultimate goals.
1. The power of integration on innovation has been described in L. Gratton, “Managing Integration Through Cooperation,” Human Re-source Management 44, no. 2 (2005): 151-158; and S. Ghoshal and L. Gratton, “Integrating the Enterprise,” MIT Sloan Management Review 44, no. 1 (fall 2002): 31-38.
2. Richard Hackman’s work on group dynamics provides early in-sights into the formation and maturation of teams; see, for example, J.R. Hackman, ed., “Groups That Work (and Those That Don’t): Cre-ating Conditions for Effective Teamwork” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989). The difficulties of managing complex teams are described in L. Gratton, “Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces and Organizations Buzz With Energy — And Others Don’t” (San Francisco: Berrett Koehler Publishers, 2007).
3. The way in which teams collaborate with each other is increasingly seen as central to their effectiveness. An overview of this argument is provided in S. Alper, D. Tjosvold and K.S. Law, “Interdependence and Controversy in Group Decision Making: Antecedents to Effective Self-Managing Teams,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 74, no. 1 (1998): 33-52.
4. Knowledge sharing has been argued to be central to the innovative capacity of a company. See, for example, I. Nonaka and H. Takeuchi, “The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
5. The challenge of team faultlines is currently being studied by several scholars. For an academic description of faultline theory, see D.C. Lau and J.K. Murnighan, “Demographic Diversity and Faultlines: The Com-positional Dynamics of Organizational Groups,” Academy of Management Review 23, no. 2 (1998): 325-340.
6. The study of in-groups and out-groups has been a central theme of group analysis. For an overview of some of the key concepts, see, for example, H. Tajfel and J.C. Turner, “The Social Identity Theory of Inter-Group Behavior,” in “Psychology of Intergroup Relations,” ed. S. Worchel and L.W. Austin (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986), 7-24.
7. The distinction between surface-level and deep-level attributes has been explored in more detail in S.E. Jackson, K.E. May and K. Whitney, “Understanding the Dynamics of Diversity in Decision-Mak-ing Teams,” in “Team Effectiveness and Decision Making in Organizations,” ed. R.A. Guzzo and E. Salas (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995), 204-261. For a more academic treatment of the theory, see D.A. Harrison, K.H. Price and M.P. Bell, “Beyond Rela-tional Demography: Time and the Effects of Surface- and Deep-Level Diversity On Work Group Cohesion,” Academy of Management Jour-nal 41, no. 1 (1998): 96-107.
8. Task orientation and relationship orientation are a continuum of leadership styles and have been examined in leadership re-search for more than a decade. For an overview of both, see G.A. Yukl, “Leadership in Organizations,” 6th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2005). The distinction was first made in the 1950s in the seminal research by E.A. Fleishman, “The Descrip-tion of Supervisory Behavior,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 37, no. 1 (1953): 1-6.
9. For a more detailed overview of Type A characters, see, for exam-ple, M.A. Chesney and R.H. Rosenman, “Type A Behavior in the Work Setting,” in “Current Concerns in Occupational Stress,” ed. C.L. Cooper and R. Payne (London: John Wiley, 1980), 187-212; and M. Friedman and R.H. Rosenman, “Type A Behavior and Your Heart” (New York: Knopf, 1974), which provides a detailed description of the psychological construct.
10. The potentially negative impact of speed on creativity has been explored by several scholars. See, for example, C. Mainemelis, “When the Muse Takes It All: A Model For the Experience of Time-lessness in Organizations,” Academy of Management Review 26, no. 4 (2001): 548-565. For an overview on time, see D.G. Ancona, P.S. Goodman, B.S. Lawrence and M.L. Tushman, “Time: A New Re-search Lens,” Academy of Management Review 26, no. 4 (2001): 645-663.
11. For an overview of studies on the impact of time on group develop-ment and processes, see S. Blount, ed., “Time in Groups,” vol. 6, “Research on Managing Groups and Teams” (Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press, 2004).
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A leader can significantly mitigate faultlines. To increase collaboration and knowledge sharing across teams with strong faultlines, leaders need to vary their leadership style according to how long the team has been together.
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