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Natural Leaders of Successful R&D Teams

Posted on December 26th, 2016 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence


Continuing with our look at the Belbin Team Framework for successful teams, today we’re going to look at the roles most suited to be taken on by R&D team leaders.

Noticing a tendency for you or those around you to naturally take on these roles can be a helpful first step in understanding team members perspectives. The Belbin Team Roles Framework is based on the idea that successful teams have people working in these roles. So as with the others, if you don’t see anyone in your team taking on these roles, there might be a need which isn’t yet being met.

The Shaper

With a goal-oriented nature, people with a tendency towards taking on a shaper role often find themselves in leadership positions. They’re energetic and focussed, and push themselves and those around them to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives.

They tend to be assertive and often have a directive communication and management style. They’re not known for their interpersonal skills and can sometimes come across as insensitive, argumentative and aggressive.

Shapers tend to be competitive and like to win. They tend to get results can be decisive when they need to be. They thrive under pressure. They come into their own when quick and decisive action is called for and are good at forcing teams to make progress towards goals and objectives when things are going too slowly as can often be the perception in an R&D context.

Shapers make good leaders of R&D teams because they help get products to market more quickly than they otherwise might. The shapers’ drive towards achieving goals is a good focus for delivering programs and projects on time, where others in the team might be more tempted to perfect the technology or refine the product beyond the immediate needs.

The Co-ordinator

Perhaps the perfect accompaniment to (although sometimes a clash with) the shaper, the co-ordinator takes a different (but still effective) approach to team leadership. Co-ordinators excel at helping others work towards their shared goals.

Co-ordinators tend to be mature, trusting and confident. They are not afraid of delegation and if anything, will sometimes delegate too much. They are quick to spot the skills and talents of others in the team and work well to draw those out in the pursuit of the team objective(s).

They may clash with shapers due to their more collaborative management style. However, often they are able to mediate between the shaper and the rest of the team, translating direct commands into more nurturing and inclusive language.

Co-ordinators tend to perform better in dealing with colleagues of near or equal rank than they do directing junior-level team members. A co-ordinator is effective at making sure the team does what it needs to do in an effective way, without leaving anybody behind.

How Is Your Team Led?

Do you recognize either (or both) of these roles in the leaders of your teams?

There are some helpful short case studies in this paper which look at the effects of different team-role makeups in R&D teams, with a particular focus on the impact different types of leaders can have.

Next time, we’ll look at two more of Belbins team roles which form the engine of a successful R&D team.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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