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Changing the Way That Leaders Think About Work Outcomes

Does your work team have “synergy,” “chemistry,” and “presence?"

Key points

  • Traditional measures of team outcomes focus on what followers do—performance, work quality—and what they feel (satisfaction).
  • Shared leader-follower outcomes look at how leaders and team members together create outcomes.
  • Shared leader-follower outcomes look at the team process and how leaders and teams can be extraordinary.

How should we measure leadership success? The traditional way is to focus on what work teams—the followers of the leader—do. Are they productive? Do they produce high-quality work? Do they have regular, or spotty, attendance? How satisfied are followers? Performance/productivity, quality, absenteeism, and employee satisfaction are all used to assess leadership outcomes. But is that enough?

As we understand more about leadership, we realize that leadership is truly something that is co-created by leaders and followers working together. To better understand how leaders and followers work together, we outlined four new ways of thinking about “shared leader-follower outcomes" (SLFO).

You can think of each of these SLFOs as what leaders and team members together can generate, and these SLFOs then, in turn, impact our traditional measures of team outcomes.


Synergy is the result of the intensive, collaborative activity of leaders and followers working together to raise the performance of the group to levels that would otherwise be unachievable. High levels of synergy should connect to the performance/productivity of the team.

How do you know if your team has synergy?

Can you answer “yes” to these items?

  • Working together, our team achieves extraordinary goals.
  • We produce more working together—leader(s) and team members—than we could by working apart.

These items suggest a lack of synergy:

  • In all honesty, our leader sometimes gets in the way and disrupts our team performance.
  • Our leader(s) and team members sometimes work at cross-purposes.


Chemistry is analogous to traditional approaches to team member satisfaction—satisfaction with the job, the leader, the organization, etc.—but focuses more directly on the quality of the leader-follower relationship, and how both parties are feeling about it. It refers to the subjective experiences of unity, cohesion, and enjoyment produced by the team dynamics and the relationships among leaders and followers.

Agreeing with these items suggests chemistry:

  • The levels of trust in our team are very high.
  • Our leader and team members work hard to keep everyone engaged.
  • Our leader and team members pull together when we are challenged.


All organizations measure attendance/absenteeism and turnover, but presence goes beyond just being physically present. Do leaders and team members show up eagerly prepared to contribute to the team’s work, and is their attention focused on the collective’s activities? “Ready, willing, and able” would be appropriate for describing team member presence.

Agreement with these items suggests positive presence:

  • Our leader and team members always come to work ready to contribute.
  • We can always count on our leader and team members to make themselves available when they are needed.
  • Our leader and team members work hard to keep everyone focused.


Professionalism goes beyond a mere focus on the quality of performance. Professionalism looks at whether leaders and followers together have a shared commitment to doing high-quality work. It is a never-ending pursuit of high standards of excellence on the part of both leaders and followers.

Positive responses to these items suggest shared professionalism:

  • Our leader and team members have very high standards for our work.
  • One thing that I can say about our leader and team, there are no weak links.
  • Our team collectively and consistently produces high-quality work.

So what?

The idea behind these shared leader-follower outcomes is to think about (and perhaps beyond) simple team performance, or team member satisfaction, attendance, and quality. The very best teams should have leaders and followers working together, with synergy, chemistry, presence, and professionalism. See more here.


Beenen, G., Todorova, G., Pichler, S., & Riggio, R. E. (2022). Reconceptualizing Multilevel Leader-Follower Shared Outcomes. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15480518221094481.

More from Ronald E. Riggio Ph.D.
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