The Tuckman Model for Leadership and Team Building as a team develops


A team develops naturally with time, but how much time and how much pain?

Modern neuroscience has identified at least six “social systems” within the human brain that influence team and leadership dynamics as teams develop through six distinct phases (neurologically speaking).

An individual’s “Team Role style” and “Leadership style” along with their deeply held “core beliefs” will influence how adept and comfortable they are as a team progresses through these stages of team development. This is useful knowledge for those working in team building and leadership development.

Like a complex hydraulic system, the injection of too much or too little of a particular team role trait can accelerate or decelerate the development of a team in each stage.

To simplify this for a leader, it’s often easiest to look at Tuckman’s model that puts the stages of a team’s development simply into four stages of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

This model has become the basis for many subsequent models.


In the first stage of team building, the forming of the team takes place.

The individual's behavior is driven by a desire to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict. Serious issues and feelings are avoided, and people focus on being busy with routines, such as team organization, who does what, when to meet, etc.

Individuals are also gathering information and impressions - about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it. This is a comfortable stage to be in, but the avoidance of conflict and threat means that not much actually gets done.

The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the tasks. Team members tend to behave quite independently.

They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team. Team members are usually on their best behavior but very focused on themselves.

Mature team members begin to model appropriate behavior even at this early phase. Sharing the knowledge of the concept of "Teams - Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing" is extremely helpful to the team. Leaders of the team tend to need to be directive during this phase.

The forming stage of any team is important because, in this stage, the members of the team get to know one another, exchange some personal information, and make new friends. This is also a good opportunity to see how each member of the team works as an individual and how they respond to pressure.


Feeling like valued team member, trust and respect of leadership and organisation, team role clarity, effective systems / procedures and rules, values and codes of conduct, know why we are here.

Main driver for team member is a sense of “SECURITY”.


Every group will next enter the storming stage of team building in which different ideas compete for consideration.

The team addresses issues such as what problems they are really supposed to solve, how they will function independently and together and what leadership model they will accept.

Team members open up to each other and confront each other's ideas and perspectives. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the team never leaves this stage.

The maturity of some team members usually determines whether the team will ever move out of this stage. Some team members will focus on minutiae to evade real issues. A person’s Team Role style can define how they will “Storm”.

The storming stage is necessary to the growth of the team. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. Tolerance of each team member and their differences should be emphasized. Without tolerance and patience the team will fail.

This phase can become destructive to the team and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Some teams will never develop past this stage.Leaders of the team during this phase may be more accessible, but tend to remain directive in their guidance of decision-making and professional behavior.

The team members will therefore resolve their differences and members will be able to participate with one another more comfortably. The ideal is that they will not feel that they are being judged, and will therefore share their opinions and views. Normally tension, struggle and sometimes arguments occur.


Freedom of self expression, healthy attitude to conflict and good ways of resolving conflict established, sense of fun and enjoyment at work, Clear and agreed goals, recognition and reward, manage performance, feeling successful (both self and team), recognise and celebrate success of one another. Main drivers for team members are “SELF EXPRESSION”, “FUN AT WORK”, “DISCRETIONARY EFFORT”.


The team manages to have clarity and sense of unity around their goal and come to a deeper mutual understanding of the strengths of others in the team at this stage of team building.

Some may have to give up their own ideas and agree with others in order to make the team function.

In this stage, all team members take the responsibility and have the ambition to work for the success of the team's goals. Team members begin to actually tolerate each others operating styles at greater depth and naturally leverage each others strengths and offset weaknesses to get the job done.

Leaders of the team in this phase can often start to assume more of a coaching and participative role with less need for being directive.


Feeling connected to one another, being heard and actively listened to, acceptance within team and from the organization based on their unique operating style, feeling supported as an individual, know each others strengths and call on them.



It is possible for some teams to reach the performing stage of team building.

These high-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision.

Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team and its leadership.Leaders of the team during this phase are almost always participative.

The team will make most of the necessary decisions. Even the most high-performing teams will revert to earlier stages in certain circumstances. Many long-standing teams go through these cycles many times as they react to changing circumstances.

For example, a change in leadership or frequent turnover in membership may cause the team to revert to storming as the new people challenge the existing norms and dynamics of the team.


Countering of emotion and cognitive bias, proper use of data and knowledge, appropriate resourcing, seek opportunities to learn, truly understand direction of the team and organisation, sense of personal future within the team, inspired by the leadership and open to new ideas. Main drivers for the team are “ONGOING LEARNING”, “OPENNESS”, “OPTIMISM”.


Neuropower, 2010, Peter Burow

The Stages of Project Team Development, Gina Abudi - 2010

Rickards, T., & Moger,S.T., (1999)

Handbook for creative team leaders, Aldershot, Hants: GowerRickards, T., & Moger, S., (2000)

‘Creative leadership processes in project team development British Journal of Management

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