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Four Fundamentals of Building Leadership Teams

Leaders are clearly critical to the success of any organization, but leadership teams are even more important than any one individual leader to that success. Members of a leadership team are simultaneously leaders of their respective subordinate organizations, subordinates of the chief executive (if a business) and team members in the leadership team. Each of these relationships is not independent of another; they can either mutually support each other or work at cross-purposes.

Leadership teams who have worked together to formulate a compelling vision, who support each other’s subordinate organizations or teams to mutually succeed at the common vision, and who lead their own organization’s well, achieve phenomenal things. All of these capabilities and behaviors need to be in place with all members of the leadership team for it to be fully functional. This requires the most senior leader to take the time to carefully find those leaders who display exceptional followership, can defer personal benefit to the benefit of a peer group, and who can lead organizations well- a tall order, but an essential one to fill.

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When members of the leadership team fail in any of these three competency areas, the leadership team becomes dysfunctional and the company at large stumbles. For example, the leader who superbly influences his subordinate organization, but who does not follow the directions of the chief executive, leads his organization down a different path than the company at large, creating rifts and wasting resources. Peer leaders who buy-in to the vision of the chief executive, for instance, but who do not leverage their organization to support their peer leaders, slow down the momentum of the company and create de facto fiefdoms within the company itself.

In addition to the above, strong Leadership teams do not concentrate talent of one type, though this can easily become the case. Affinity bias (I like me, you’re like me, I like you) can easily derail the formation of leadership teams when the executive brings too many leaders just like him or herself on to the team. Good teams bring a diversity of leadership abilities into a single team which compliments the team’s strengths and shore up their collective weaknesses.

Take the time to evaluate the unique strengths and weaknesses leadership team candidates bring to the group and make sure your placement decisions are made in reference to the needs of the leadership team in addition to the other factors considered. Too often, the hiring decision considers only the need of the subordinate organization that the candidate will be leading and fails to consider his or her role as a member of the leadership team.

Forming a leadership team comprised of leaders who are effective subordinates, supportive peers, and inspiring leaders in their own right is critical. If you are a senior leader, forming a leadership team which will lead multiple layers of organization, make sure you have considered the four dimensions discussed above by ensuring you are selecting someone who:

1.   Displays followership
2.   Works well as a team member
3.   Can lead subordinate organizations
4.   Brings unique talents to the group
  
Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of Fosteringexcellence.org. He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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