What leads to this sort of behavior? Are the team members scared of retribution? Are they just "brown-nosing"? Or do they think that the leader must have it all together, so they could not possibly be wrong? I suppose that ultimately it could be due to any of these things and probably other things as well. It is ultimately up to the leader to be watchful of this situation and haul it out on the carpet when they feel it is happening.
Sometimes the leader may just have to say, "This is a journey, folks! None of us knows it all. It only works when we work together as a team. Your input and ideas and creativity are critical to the team. That's why you're here."
It seems like, increasingly on teams that I participate in at work, I find myself in the situation of feeling like everyone just wants to be a "yes person" around me. I need to look more inward to myself and my behavior to help me figure out why things are that way. I know that it hurts our effectiveness and success as a team. We have some very smart and innovative team members yet, when give the opportunity to express their thoughts, they clam up. And they never want to tell me that I could be wrong.
Even this blog -- sometimes I wonder why more people don't challenge me on my thoughts. Perhaps I am too milquetoast to be challenged but I do love it when I get the occasional post that encourages me to seek new depths and ways of understanding! I'd love to get more of those.
And I must admit -- I have been there before on teams where I have served. I have been among those who sit back and watch rather than participate. The reason is partially because I tend to be a "processor" ... I need to think things through a bit before responding. Sometimes it is because I am afraid of my suggestions being shot down by the leader. (This is one of the ways in which I feel that I may be stifling input on the teams where I lead, by the way.) I am beginning to see how incredibly frustrating it is to a team leader when people do not talk. You begin to wonder why you're even doing things by team leadership. You may as well do it all by yourself if no one is going to participate.
I do lead one small group right now where one of my team members always provides input and is always willing to challenge me or offer a different perspective. I appreciate this individual so much. Out of all of the meetings I attend on a regular basis, there is none I enjoy more than the ones where this individual is present. Yes, he is hugely skilled and experienced at doing things by team leadership so he understands the dynamics and the proper behavior. But I just appreciate him so much because I know that he will always give me his true thoughts and perspective.
So, I need to look inward and figure out how to be better at drawing out the opinions of others. I need to really analyze whether it is something in my behavior and response that normally stifles them. And I need to be more participative on all teams on which I serve.
Doing things by team can be huge in both spiritual and secular settings. But you must have the right dynamics -- you must have things firing on all cylinders -- for that level of success to occur.