What Makes Exceptional Team Leaders Different?

Foundations and Findings

Often, it is at the intersection of knowledge domains that the most interesting insights emerge. My doctoral research focused on human motivation, engagement, and team performance. Each of those areas has their own language, theories, and applications. As I looked hard at the edges and overlaps of each concept, I uncovered the common elements of an architecture used by team leaders to build highly-effective teams. And at the core of that architecture, was a habit that those team leaders adopted which consistently delivered exceptional results.

The Architecture of Highly-Effective Teams

The Architecture of Highly-Effective Teams and Team Leaders

Exceptional team leaders put in place a framework (architecture) that lays a solid foundation for both teamwork (how people work together) and task work (what they get done). When putting in place their team architecture, the best team leaders are exacting in the choice of the individual pieces of the architecture (such as the purpose of the team), and they’re diligent in the execution of each of those elements (for example, choosing the people who make up the team). In addition, those team leaders are disciplined to regularly reflect upon what works well and what does not, especially across individual and interpersonal organizational dynamics. In layman’s terms – they place individual motivation and healthy key relationships at the heart of their team architecture.

Team Fundamentals

Team fundamental are akin to the foundation of a house. The more solid the foundation, the safer it is to build on it. Conversely, a foundation that is weak risks fracturing and crumbling as the stresses on it increase. The Architecture of Highly-Effective Teams starts with fundamentals that include clarity of team purpose; putting the right people in place to realize that purpose and deliver the team’s goals; and ensuring the optimal level of support in terms of resources, information, and training.

Motivation at Work

Human motivation is a complex, multifaceted subject. Fortunately, motivation at work has the advantage of a specific context (fewer variables) which reduces the complexity. The next layer of the Architecture focuses on individual motivation at work and its effect on people’s energy and engagement. Ensuring that each team member understands the purpose of his or her role; has the capacity and competencies to perform it, and the freedom to make a difference is a key distinguishing attribute of exceptional team leaders.

Key Relationships

Last, and most important, exceptional team leaders have come to realize that key relationships, and the motivations and emotions that drive them, are at the heart of a highly-effective team architecture. They recognize that the interpersonal dynamics of a team, including both social support and conflict management, have a significant impact on team performance. Those exceptional team leaders have learned to maximize team performance through their mastery of the one habit of consistently closing experience-expectation


Dr. Jeb S. Hurley
Dr. Jeb S. Hurley
Dr. Jeb Hurley is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur who is a leading expert on team dynamics and high-performance leadership. Jeb guides leaders in understanding and influencing human behavior to deliver better results and greater wellbeing. He is co-founder and CEO of Xmetryx, Inc., the creator of TrustMetryx software, and Co-founder and Managing Partner of Brainware Partners, a team dynamics consultancy. Jeb is a two-time author and holds a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.

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  1. Thanks a lot, Dr. Jeb, for the precise outline to benefit Exceptional Leadership aspirants. Outstanding individuals like yourself can, and sure do impart valuable guidance to the needy through this initiative of sharing and caring.

    Thank You!

    My family joins me in Wishing You, and All Your Loved Ones, Happy Holidays, and A Very Bright, Cheerful, Happy, Healthy, Peaceful, and Productive New Year 2019!!!