Team work and leadership

As organisational structures become less hierarchical with flatter management structures so the need for employees to work across the business in different project teams increases. This may also mean taking on a leadership role from time to time.

Understand it

Successful team players are able to:

  • Interact effectively with others on a one-to-one and whole group basis 
  • Work with a range of people from different backgrounds and experiences and attitudes
  • Acknowledge and respect different opinions and view points
  • Understand individual responsibilities in order to complete assigned tasks
  • Overcome obstacles and resolve any conflict
  • Seek feedback and discuss and accept ideas from others
  • Encourage contributions and listen to others 
  • Support each other and contribute to a positive atmosphere among the group 

Leadership is about:

  • Setting objectives
  • Being able to motivate and supervise others
  • Taking responsibility for the direction and actions of a team
  • Creating a positive working environment
  • Suggesting alternative ways of working if things don't work out initially  

Develop it

The following examples of your ability to lead and work in groups can be developed as part of your degree, part-time work, sandwich placements, voluntary work, hobbies, clubs and societies:

  • Group projects as part of your degree - particularly when you have taken on differing roles and made a successful contribution
  • Clubs and societies when you have worked in a defined role within a committee structure   
  • Part-time jobs in environments such as retail provide opportunities for team work in a commercial setting
  • Team sports such as football, hockey and netball require leadership, strong team spirit and group identity  
  • Supervising less experienced members of staff at work

Demonstrate it

Employers are always hungry for hard evidence. A lot of selection and interview practice is competency based. Basically that means that employers score the evidence they find from your application form, interview and other selection procedures to come up with a final assessment of your suitability for the post.

You will need to be reflective in the way that you describe the examples you have developed. The STAR approach where you explain the situation, task, action and result will help you to articulate your evidence in a convincing way. Identify examples of your team work and leadership skills in the Identifying Skills work sheet.

Examples of competency based questions used by graduate recruiters relating to team work and leadership:

  • Give an example of a time when you have worked with others to complete a task or project. What happened? Who did you work well/not so well with? What specifically did YOU do to make sure the group worked well? What did you learn? (BBC)
  • Please give a brief example of when you acted as a leader of a group of people, set direction for them, gained their commitment and led them to achieve outstanding results (Unilever)
  • How have you coped with disagreement in a team/leadership situation? (Goldman Sachs)

The following sources of information will help you to develop your confidence in this area: 

  • Belbin - roles people play in teams 
  • Learn Higher - group work resources for students
  • Mind Tools - leadership styles 
  • Use My Ability - Team work
  • The Selling your skills on paper section of our website will help you articulate the skills you have developed
  • You can view a 20 minute DVD about online applications from the secure resources section of our website
  • You can also hear from employers themselves about what they like to see in applications and interviews by coming to the relevant events on campus

Page last updated: Monday 22 July 2013