A team leader represents a team to higher levels of the company, coordinates team efforts and works to resolve conflicts within the team. A team leader differs from a supervisor in that he is part of the team he leads, rather than above them, in the structure of the company -- much like the captain of a sports team. Using team leaders can improve how effectively your groups work, or it can create strife that hinders productivity. Which one depends on how well you maximize the benefits and mitigate the risks of creating this position.

Unified Point of Contact

Communication without a team leader can mean either overwhelming the boss's time with reports from every member or lost messages everybody assumed somebody else was responsible to report. A team leader becomes a communications hub, responsible to make sure everybody gets the information they need without flooding anybody's inbox with data relevant only to other members of the team.

Unclear Chain of Authority

A team leader doesn't always have official status within the company. With team members officially reporting to somebody above the team leader, this can create confusion about responsibility and authority. It can mean people delivering messages to the official supervisor that should have gone to the team leader, and it can lead to the team leader's instructions not being respected by peers within the team she leads.

Greater Independence

With a good team leader, a team can accomplish tasks that would otherwise require a manager's intervention. This means team members are more productive, because they don't have to wait for opportunities to check in with the boss, and it means more time for the team's manager to focus on his personal contributions to the project.


Any time a peer is put in a position to give orders to another peer, there's a chance the peer receiving the orders is going to resent it. This can create the kind of intra-team conflict a team leader is supposed to prevent, and it can slow productivity.

Candid Assessment

Team members working together are more likely to give a frank and honest assessment of a situation, product or person to each other than to their appointed supervisor. A good team leader remains close enough to the team to hear those assessments and close enough to his manager to report them. This kind of transparency of process can speed a project's completion and spot potential disasters before they happen.

Us vs. Them

When all members of a team report to a manager, each has her own relationship with the person in charge. When they work with a team leader who represents them, the team cohesion can work against management as they form an "us vs. them" attitude.