What makes an effective leadership team?

Leadership teams can be the difference-maker. They can be key to tying organizations together and accelerating the development- and implementation capabilities of an organization, and they can be instrumental in improving organizational performance.

So, what does a leadership team do?

  1. They inform each other – i.e. exchange information and inform on issues relevant for other team members

  2. They discuss issues – essentially dealing with complex issues that are important to the business as a whole

  3. They make decisions and choose a direction, set strategies, make priorities and approve business cases etc.

  4. They follow up and monitor processes and decisions – i.e. following up on key figures, project status, implementation follow-through etc.

  5. They conduct targeted stakeholder management interacting with key stakeholders – e.g. the board, key influencers in the organization etc.

When it comes to leadership teams there are essentially three leadership team levels:

  • The top leadership team level (e.g. C-level leadership team). They focus on strategic governing, ensuring coherence and development of the whole organization and stakeholder management with the board, shareholders etc.

  • The mid leadership team level (e.g. R&D division leadership team). They focus on support and coordination of front leaders tasks and priorities – ensuring translation of decisions downwards while ensuring feedback upwards

  • The front leadership level (e.g. Clinical Operations leadership team). They are close to the core business, employees and daily tasks, and their focus is on ensuring goal implementation

Regardless of which leadership level you may belong to, the same three key elements need to be in place in order to run an effective leadership team (Bang et al, 2015) – i.e.:

  1. Clear preconditions must be defined – engulfing framework conditions that need to be in place in order to create an effective leadership team

  2. Clear processes must be defined – engulfing factors that come in play when members of the leadership team work together to create results

  3. Clear results must be defined – engulfing the output and added value created by the leadership team

Effective Leadership Team Model:

Model source: Bang et al: “Effektive Ledergrupper”: For bedre udvikling, implementering og tværgående sammenhæng”, 2015, 1. udgave. Dansk Psykologisk Forlag A/S”

The Effective Leadership Team Model (see above) consists of a number of key underlying factors that come in play under each of the three pillars: Preconditions, Processes and Results – here is a brief capture of the various factors:

1. Preconditions:

1. Clear purpose

  • To be effective an leadership team, team members need to have a clear idea of their “reason for being” and a clear and explicit mandate or goal for the team’s existence. The team needs a clear purpose – i.e. the team members need to understand if the team is a 1) network leadership team with focus on sparring & knowledge sharing, or a 2) project leadership team with focus on governing and driving projects, or a 3) strategic leadership team with a strategic focus and mandate. Moreover, the individual team members and the team as a whole needs to have developed clearly defined goals and clear expectations to ensure effectiveness.

2. Appropriate tasks

  • Team members need to have a clear understanding of what tasks are relevant to be handled by the team and how they should be prioritized. Only tasks or issues that are important in relation to the purpose and result focus of the leadership team should be brought up – everything else is a potential waste of time and should instead be taken bilaterally or in smaller groups.

3. Right people

  • The team also needs to be balanced if it is to be effective. This includes only appointing members who are capable of taking an enterprise perspective and who possesses the capability to collaborate well. Additionally, the size of the leadership team should never be above 6-7 members as studies indicate, that team productivity falls with the increase in team size. Additionally, the composition of the leadership team can be instrumental in its ability to be effective. Studies indicate that increased diversity and complementary professional competencies can have a positive effect on a team’s ability to collaborate and produce results.

2. Processes:

1. Clear requests

  • Team members must discipline themselves to bring up topics in the team in the right way. First of all, it must be clear to the team what their task is in relation to the topic. Then it must be clear to the team how they are to work with the topic. Finally, it must be clear why, in the first place, it is important to put the topic on the agenda.

2. Focus

  • Team members must have the capability to stick to the topic and goal of the discussion if the team is to be effective. Thus it is critical that the team members are disciplined on sticking to the subject and that they are disciplined in returning to the core issue if coming off track.

3. Collaborativeness

  • Team members must be capable of effectively collaborating. An effective leadership team expects its members to express disagreement without devaluating individual team members personally or professionally, and motivate members to change perspective or expand on the perspectives of other members.