Case Study: First Amongst Equals

In my second case study, we look at a situation when one of the peers is expected to take on the leadership position amongst the team. Looking forward to your responses to learn what we can do in situations like these.


A meeting alert window popped up on Ajay’s computer reminding him of his meeting with Sangeeta, his boss. He clicked the snooze button and continued making last minutes changes to the spreadsheet he was working on. He was compiling performance data for his team that would be discussed in the impending meeting. The alert popped up again. Ajay disconnected his laptop and looked for a pen.

Sangeeta beckoned Ajay through the glass door and Ajay walked in her office without waiting. Ajay’s team had grown significantly and Sangeeta felt that all projects were not getting due attention. Also not all team members were getting the coaching that Ajay was capable of providing because he was spread too thin.

“I feel you need a Team Leader in your team Ajay. Have you got any suggestions?” Sangeeta started. They had recently discussed the growth of Ajay’s team and the related issues.

“Well, Archana and Rahul are the two key players in my team. Both are equally capable.” Ajay said as he opened his laptop.

“Who is more capable of leading a team? I understand that both are equally capable of executing projects, but we are really looking for leadership skills here.” Sangeeta said.

“Rahul is actually very good in customer communications. His work is also always very good and gets approved in the first round itself. And Archana is equally good. Rahul likes to be sure of what he is planning to do and bounces things off me while Archana goes ahead and takes decisions on her own.”

“And are her decisions wrong?” Sangeeta probed.

“Actually she has a good instinct. And she usually backs it up with well thought through strategy.” Ajay explained.

“What about the team? Which one of them works better with the team?”

“Rahul is just great with the team. He’s a great listener, practically an agony aunt actually. He almost never says anything negative to his team members. The team loves him. Archana’s also good with people but she’s more task focussed. She shows the team a vision and a goal and then helps them achieve it.” Ajay felt good that he had thought through strengths and weaknesses of Rahul and Archana.

“Seems like Archana probably will make a better Team Leader don’t you think?” Sangeeta asked.

“Most probably… but Rahul’s really good too. I don’t think we can ignore him. I wouldn’t want to lose him.” Ajay was beginning to look worried. He knew Archana was more independent and stronger and more capable leader of the two and yet was worried about what Rahul might feel about reporting to someone who has been his peer.

“Ajay, only one person can be the Team Leader, you know that.”



How do you think Ajay should handle the situation? How should he communicate to Archana and Rahul about the new Team Leader position?

How will Rahul take the news? What do you think he should do now that he will need to report to his peer?

How can Archana make Rahul more comfortable as a Team Leader? How can she graduate from the peer relationship to a supervisor relationship?