Student teams are self-managed and have no formally designated leader. Instead, leadership is shared among members. As a result, members must "lead one another to the achievement of group goals" (Pearce & Conger, 2007, p .1). This is different than the more commonly held concept of a leader who directs and influences others. Instead, on successful teams, members step forward into leadership as needs and circumstances dictate, and step back as these needs and circumstances change. In this understanding, shared leadership is analogous to collaboration.
Regardless of our understanding, leadership is at its heart a particular kind of relationship between members of a team. Where there is leadership there is also followership. This is the central relationship. A leader knows when to step forward, and a follower knows when to step back. In either role, "an effective team member is a critical, independent thinker who actively participates in the [team] (Daft, 2015, p. 200)." In a real team, members share leadership and followership as needed, providing focus and direction when it wanders, encouraging multiple and competing ideas, and supporting others to be their best through honest and constructive feedback regardless of their designated roles.