Business success is rarely a product of individual genius and wisdom. More often it comes from the collaborative synergy of highly effective teams. Years of substantive research have consistently drawn a solid connection between an organisation’s performance and the effectiveness of its leadership team. These insights highlight the importance of fostering teamwork, especially at the highest levels of an organisation.
While individual talents, deep expertise, and relevant experiences have traditionally been the focus of companies, it’s increasingly evident that the collective behaviour of leadership teams plays a pivotal role in determining an organisation’s success. This underscores the need for all organisations to broaden their focus beyond individual leadership ability, ensuring the right amount of time is spent investing in the power of collaborative leadership.
What sets these high-performing leadership teams apart?
During my 30 years in Search, I’ve observed six specific qualities that seem to form the foundation of any high-achieving team. These are not just buzzwords or phrases; they are vital components that dictate the team’s functionality and, ultimately, its success:
1. Shared vision and alignment:
In an era where agility and adaptability are key, having a leadership team united by a shared vision is a significant asset. Great leadership teams have a clear aim that everyone understands and supports, setting the stage for all subsequent efforts. They buy into a shared goal, working together to achieve what they’ve set out to do.
When each team member understands not just their own role but how it interconnects with others in fulfilling broader objectives, the result is a streamlined effort. This helps to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction, eliminating conflicts and accelerating progress.
It allows the organisation to navigate complexities, reinforcing resilience and long-term success.
2. Trust and collaboration:
Trust is the bedrock upon which all other team dynamics are built. When team members implicitly trust one another, it creates an environment of psychological safety. This allows for candid conversations, an open exchange of ideas, and a culture where questioning the status quo is not just accepted but encouraged. Trust fosters a work environment devoid of hidden agendas and unnecessary politics, thereby streamlining the path towards achieving the team’s objectives.
Building on this is the crucial element of collaboration. When team members genuinely believe in their collective ability to succeed, they actively invest in each other’s growth and well-being. This usually leads to the introduction of innovative solutions and fresh perspectives.
3. Diversity of perspectives:
In my experience, one of the most significant indicators of a high-achieving leadership team is the presence of diverse perspectives. This attribute is not merely a checkbox for inclusivity; it’s a competitive advantage that fuels innovation, problem-solving, and adaptability.
Exceptional teams understand that each person brings a unique set of skills, background, and viewpoints that contribute to the team’s collective intelligence and resilience. ‘Groupthink’ can be avoided by encouraging everyone to share their unique perspectives, coming up with creative solutions to problems.
4. Inspirational leadership:
Over the years, it’s increasingly apparent among thriving leadership teams is the presence of inspirational leaders. Such leadership serves as the North Star that guides and energises the entire team.
Inspirational leaders possess the ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision for the future. This clarity of vision allows team members to understand their individual roles within the broader team, providing a sense of purpose that is vital for sustained commitment.
Inspirational leaders make each individual feel seen and valued. These leaders set the course, keep spirits high, and aren’t afraid to make difficult decisions.
5. Results-driven focus:
Leadership teams that stand out are those that exhibit a focus on achieving tangible results. This results-driven orientation is about fostering a culture of continuous improvement and setting the bar higher with each accomplishment.
Rather than getting bogged down with process or internal politics, they maintain a relentless focus on what truly matters — delivering results that make a real difference. This ensures that every project, initiative, or strategy is aligned with the team’s overarching objectives, ensuring meaningful impact.
Being results-driven means more than just aiming for the finish line; it involves constantly evaluating performance, seeking opportunities for growth and measuring success. This iterative process fosters a dynamic culture where learning and improvement are ongoing pursuits.
6. Embracing risk:
Truly innovative leaders have a unique trait: they don’t shy away from taking risks. For them, it’s a calculated strategy to foster innovation and unlock new opportunities.
It’s essential to clarify that embracing risk doesn’t mean being reckless or impulsive. The most innovative teams take balanced risks, weighing the potential rewards against the possible pitfalls. Through comprehensive research, brainstorming, and risk assessment, these teams ensure that each leap into the unknown is supported by thorough analysis. This balanced approach mitigates downside risks while maximising the opportunity for positive outcomes.
The challenge of ineffective teams at the top
Despite the evident importance of these collective behaviours, the reality is sobering. A substantial percentage of leadership teams grapple with ineffectiveness. According to a survey by Leadership IQ, only 24% of senior managers strongly agree that everyone on their executive team is fully aligned on the organisation’s goals.
The root causes of this misalignment often lie in the team’s dynamics and behaviours. It’s here that organisations must direct their attention if they aspire to unlock their full potential.
Building an effective leadership team
Creating a successful leadership team is no simple task. It requires intentional, collective development over time. Teams must carve out dedicated periods during which they focus on building specific behaviours and skills. These developmental sessions, whether virtual or physical, serve as platforms for learning and growth.
The process is incremental, requiring commitment and patience. It might span months or even years, but the journey toward effective teamwork is a collective endeavour.
Highly effective leadership teams have the potential to outshine even the most exceptional individual leaders. By prioritising the development of key collective behaviours and fostering a culture of collaboration, dynamism, and dedication, organisations can unlock their full potential and thrive in today’s competitive business landscape.