Read Jane Braithwaite’s latest article ‘Sum is Greater than the Parts’ in the Independent Practitioner Today touching on the subject of teamwork and how to get the best out of your team.

Jane BraithwaiteTopTips2The well-known saying ‘no man is an island’ is particularly true for anyone working in private practice, as it is impossible to succeed without a supportive team and the benefits of teamwork. Jane Braithwaite (right) suggests how to get the best from your team and gives a dozen tips to bring success.Teamwork main

Sum is greater than the parts

A consultant setting up in private practice may initially believe that he or she will work in isolation. But they will soon recognise the necessity of a support team to manage private clinics and another team entirely to run regular theatre lists.

Each team will have different members, different objectives and very different dynamics.

A team is a group or people who have come together to achieve a common goal. Ideally, the performance of the team is greater than the sum of the performance of the individual team members.

Given that you will be part of one or more teams, and you are likely to be the team leader, it is important to understand how to maximise the potential of these teams.

Does a team need a leader?

Any group or team needs a leader to be effective and to maximise potential performance. Research also suggests this to be true.

A team without a leader and clear direction can become just a talking shop. It may be a very jolly one, but progress, if any, will undoubtedly be slow.

The leader is the one who commands a group and influences that group towards a specific result. A leader is not dependent on title or formal authority.

In practice, a team normally has a formal leader by title, but it is interesting to observe how a leader can emerge from within a team if no one else takes ownership of the role.

Leadership styles

Daniel Goleman is responsible for popularising the concept of  ‘emotional intelligence’, but he also wrote a great book called Primal Leadership which articulates different leadership styles and the pros and cons of each.

It is worth exploring the different styles that might be useful to you.


The commanding, or autocratic, leadership style is the most popular style of leadership. The leader holds all the authority and responsibility for decisions made.

There is no consultation with team members. Decisions are announced and the leader expects them to be implemented.

The most appropriate use of this style is in a crisis where a decision needs to be made and acted upon quickly.

So, this style is vital, but should only be used in the right scenario, which is one where decisive action is required. The potential downside of commanding leadership is that team members start to feel demoralised and like robots with no intellectual stimulation, which, in turn, leads them to feeling alienated.

Teamwork bulbThis style has historically been used widely by the armed forces, but they have recognised that it is only of use in certain situations and are embracing other styles.

An obvious use of this style for the medical practitioner is in an emergency, perhaps in theatre. I would advise any team to discuss this way of working and recognise when it is appropriate.

If all team members understand this commanding style is only used occasionally, but when necessary, they will respect it and there is less risk of people feeling alienated.


The democratic or participative style is where the leader taps into the collective wisdom of the team and the team’s subordinates are involved in the decision-making process.

This style is highly regarded by most, who feel engaged and valued when working in this way. Success is dependent on the leader engaging with team members to encourage them to contribute their ideas and opinions.

There are no major downsides of the democratic approach, but it is important to recognise that is not ideal in a crisis, as it does not allow a fast response.

By the time everyone reaches a consensus, it’s too late. In an emergency, the leader needs to recognise the need to switch from democratic behaviour to the commanding style to ensure fast action.


The coaching style is most valuable when your focus is on developing the people within your team. It works well with a team of people who show initiative and want support with their professional development.

This style is obviously highly appropriate when engaging with junior medical staff. Also with anyone who has a desire to learn and develop.


The affiliative style requires no leader and relies on teamwork. This style is great at creating harmony, but a culture of group praise can lead to accepted poor performance.

This is the model that I suggest can become a lovely, jolly talking shop with slow or no progress.

Switching styles

A good leader needs to be able to adopt several different styles depending on the team and the situation. Leadership is not about ‘the leader’, it is about the needs of the people you are leading.  You will need to move between styles in different scenarios.

A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

Remember, in the sporting world, if a team has a great season, the manager is worshipped by the team, the press and all the fans. But if a team fails to perform well, the person who gets sacked is the manager.

[plsc_pullquote align=”right”]‘No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.’ H. E. Luccock[/plsc_pullquote]

As I sign off this month, I would like to leave you with this thought.  This will help you, as you ponder your role as leader and team player.




Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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