Team Leadership vs. General Leadership: Understanding the Key Differences

What’s the difference between General and Team LeadeshIp? Leadership is an essential component of any organization as it sets the tone for the culture and decision-making processes. However, not all leaders are the same, and there are significant differences between team leadership and general leadership. It’s vital to understand these distinctions to ensure that you are selecting and developing the right leaders for your organization. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between team leadership and general leadership and why it’s crucial to differentiate between the two.

Focus and Scope of General and Team Leadership

The primary distinction between team leadership and general leadership is the focus and scope of the leadership role. General leadership tends to be more high-level, focused on driving the overall strategy of the organization and overseeing the various departments or functions within the company. In contrast, team leadership is focused on managing a single team or department, ensuring they are working efficiently and cohesively to deliver results. Team leaders are more hands-on than general leaders and have a greater understanding of the day-to-day operations of their team.

Communication Style in Team and General Leadership

Effective communication is another critical aspect that distinguishes team leadership from general leadership. General leaders need to be skilled communicators who can articulate the company’s vision, values, and goals to employees and stakeholders. They often communicate through formal channels such as emails, reports, and presentations. In contrast, team leaders need to be adept at informal communication, as they work more closely with their teams. They need to provide constant feedback, coaching, and motivation to their team members.

Decision-Making Process at Different Leadership levels

Another significant difference between team leadership and general leadership is the decision-making process. General leaders tend to make more strategic decisions, often based on data analytics and insights. They need to weigh in on various factors, such as market trends, consumer behavior, and financial performance. On the other hand, team leaders often make more tactical decisions, such as task delegation, scheduling, and resource allocation, which are necessary for their team’s day-to-day functioning.

General and Team Leadership Development

Leadership development is another crucial aspect that distinguishes team leadership from general leadership. Organizations often have different development paths for both types of leaders. General leaders may receive formal leadership training, attend executive education programs, and participate in coaching sessions with an experienced mentor or consultant. Team leaders may also receive training, but it tends to be more hands-on and on-the-job. They benefit from working closely with other team leaders, receiving feedback, and attending training sessions specific to their role.

Performance Management across Levels

Finally, one of the critical differences between team leadership and general leadership is performance management. General leaders are responsible for the overall performance of the organization, and as such, they need to track and measure various metrics and KPIs. They often rely on data analysis and performance reports to assess the organization’s progress. In contrast, team leaders focus on managing the performance of their teams. They are responsible for providing ongoing feedback, coaching, and mentoring to help their team members improve their performance and achieve their goals.

Team and General Leadership: Unilateral vs. Multilateral

The most significant misunderstanding in team leadership is caused by how to lead a group of individuals and what the difference is between a group of people and a team. A team is only effective as a team when the outcome of the team’s effort is larger or better than the sum of those individual contributors.

Imagine a race of 8 single-rowing boats vs one with 8 rowers. The reason why the boat with 8 rowers will most likely win, despite the heavier weight and water resistance, can be found in the power of rowing synchronicity of 8 people rowing in the same boat at the same time in the same direction. Even if all 8 single-rowing boats are synchronized, they will all be slower thanlarger boat. Only when the team of 8 is getting out of sync, is getting inefficient, and then ineffective, the single rowers have a good chance to surpass the team.

What does this mean for leadership? A team leader needs to manage multilaterally. Thus, the leader needs to manage the team as a system and the individual contributors as part of the system. When the parts don’t work together, the team is going to be ineffective. A team of high performers doesn’t necessarily win championships for you. When they do not support each other and only focus on their individual high performance, the team becomes ineffective. Time and again we can see this in sports teams like the case of Real Madrid’s famous team Galacticos.


In conclusion, understanding the key differences between team leadership and general leadership is essential for selecting and developing the right leaders for your organization. While general leaders focus on the overall strategy, team leaders manage the performance of a single team or department. Communication style, decision-making process, leadership development, and performance management are all critical aspects that distinguish these two types of leadership. By aligning the right leadership style with the right job role, you can create a culture of effective leadership.

And what about functional leaders instead? Those who are mainly subject matter experts but are also responsible for setting startegies and/or managing people? That’s a whole different story – and yes, we have written a blog about it!

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