Meta skills and technical skills in team leadership

Law, Penny
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Extensive research has been conducted on the leadership skills that are required to improve a team’s performance. However, theories have not managed to explain conclusively how certain leadership skills are able to improve a team's performance over others. Recent studies, have shifted the focus from trying to single out leadership skills that improve a team’s performance to identifying categories of skills - like ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills - that improve a team's performance. This study develops and explains how the categories of meta skills and technical skills provide a more comprehensive explanation of leadership skills than the categories of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills. This study explores the relationship between a leader’s meta skills and technical skills on a team’s performance. A case study method within an interpretive paradigm was used to assess the way in which meta and technical skills were perceived to improve a team’s performance. The study drew from the rich insights of leaders and team members within four programmes located in the Graduate School of Public and Development Management. Open-ended and closed-ended questionnaires and semi-structured interviews gathered data to assess the perceived skills required in an ideal leader to improve team performance. The study revealed that a team’s performance improves when a leader emphasises the exercise of meta skills above the exercise of technical skills. However, an over-emphasis of either meta skills or technical skills results in the demoralisation of a team which eventually leads to the reduction of a team’s performance. The notion of meta skills and technical skills should therefore not be regarded as discrete factors that impact on a team’s performance in a linear causeeffect relationship. Instead, a team’s performance is affected by the interaction of factors within the individual, organisational and global context, as well as by the exercise of meta and technical skills in a dynamic and inter-connected process.