"The very thing that makes someone a great leader in their area of business is the very thing that makes it so hard for them to be part of a Leader Team."

When a business is failing to reach its growth targets, often the finger of blame starts pointing to a whole host of way of working inefficiencies. Significant money, effort and time is then spent identifying and resolving these perceived blockers and barriers.

But still, after that process is finished, growth fails to follow. Why?

The reality is that these are often the symptoms of a failing system, but not the cause. The uncomfortable truth is that many businesses fail to deliver growth because of poor leadership. Rather than being led by a united Leader Team, the company is at the mercy of a band of passionate, professional & well-intentioned individuals who are sadly the very antithesis of a team.

It’s Toxic if Not Addressed

It’s a serious challenge. The effect goes beyond the top table too; it’s seen and felt by the wider organisation. In fact, our EDGE research shows that Leader Teams’ impact on overall organisational effectiveness is 4x that of the individual leader. It seeps out, spreading into people’s everyday behaviours and actions, resulting in those symptoms that stifle and frustrate growth.

These frustrations are very real, suck up oceans of valuable time, create unnecessary conflict and demoralise teams. In our experience, starting with the Leader Team first when faced with growth challenges can often alleviate, if not resolve many wider organisational symptoms.

The irony is that most of the individual leaders will have significant experience and success in building and transforming teams. Individually, they are great leaders, who are no strangers to the mantra ‘Storming, Forming, Norming’. So why is it so hard for them to become one themselves?

What Was Helpful Before, Hinders Now

Often, the very thing that makes someone a great leader in their area of business is the very thing that makes it so hard for them to be part of a Leader Team. To get to the top of any organisation or function, an individual will typically possess a bundle of behaviours and capabilities: significant technical or functional expertise, general experience, a successful track record and a strong opinion on the strategy, direction and priorities of the business. They’re also likely to be highly driven and personally ambitious, with their own operational style and values. Chances are, they also have a fiercely loyal team of people following them, too.

When you put these powerful, passionate and potent personalities into a room together and expect Happy Families, you often get Game of Thrones; competing personal agendas and conflicting views on strategy suddenly hinder when before they helped.

Building a Leader Team

So, how do you transform a team of leaders into a Leader Team? The first step is to appreciate that this rarely happens by accident. It takes time, effort and a shared commitment to make it happen. It also demands a collective honesty and willingness to face into business and team challenges. But this isn’t about raft building, the best way to build the Leader Team is to work together on what matters most.

  • Make time for strategic thinking and team building: Commit to regular Leader Team sessions, offsite, away from the operational day to day.
  • Create the strategy on a page: By putting together a clear and aligned view on strategic direction, priorities, commercial goals and key activities, you create a guide with no room for misinterpretation.
  • Understand & respect individual leadership styles: Seek to learn individual and collective thinking styles, experience, strengths and blind spots.
  • Define your Leader Team Charter: Build out the principles for how you’ll work together and clarify expectations for behaviours and responsibilities.
  • Define the ‘not to do list’: This is just as important – identify the tasks and activities that you’re going to stop.

If your business is faced with a list of potential way of working issues, work to identify the symptoms, and the cause. If one of them is the Leader Team, start there. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many of the other burning issues and frustrations miraculously disappear.

Ask yourself. Are you a team of leaders, or a Leader Team?