Pascale Benoliel and Anit Somech

Studying 92 interdisciplinary teams, Benoliel and Somech developed a typology of boundary activities performed by leaders.

The authors distinguishes between internal activities and external activities:

  • Internal activities are directed toward the team, while involving various intra-team processes occurring within the team boundary
  • External activities are directed toward agents external to the team’s focal environment in order to acquire resources and to monitor the team’s external environment.

Among the internal activities, the following are singled out:

  • Relating activities. These activities are aimed at building team’s trust and caring for team members. By focusing on their teams’ best interests, leaders cultivate a positive social climate within the team.
  • Scouting activities. They are aimed at gathering information about the needs and problems of the team and its members by diagnosing and investigating problems systematically.
  • Persuading activities. They are directed to influence the team members to understand the implications of their decisions and actions. Leaders define the team’s mission and ensure that all team members have a common understanding of this mission affecting the similarity of team mental models).
  • Empowering activities. They involve delegating authority and exercising flexibility with respect to team decisions, followed by ongoing coaching. This function also entails the extent to which leaders encourage team members to act autonomously, thereby providing opportunities for the exchange of knowledge.

As for the external activities, the following are reported:

  • Relating activity. They involve developing political and social awareness. This type of activity refers to the extent to which the leader demonstrates an understanding of the organization. A leader continually manages the relationships between the team and the larger environmental context by communicating and coordinating with key constituencies outside the team.
  • Scouting activity. They involve the extent to which the leader searches for information from people external to the team to clarify organizational needs. A leader may identify important environmental events, interpret these events, and communicate this interpretation to the team. The purpose of the search is to acquire knowledge and resources that may be useful to the organization. Such activities may help members to develop a common understanding of the needs and demands of the team’s (and the organization’s) external stakeholders.
  • Persuading activity. They involve the extent to which the leader focuses on obtaining external support and acquiring resources for the team. This involves presenting the team to other teams and stakeholders in a way that maximizes the support available to the team. This activity is similar to the ambassadorial activity, which involves protecting the team from outside pressure and persuading others to support the team.