An executive is only as effective as the leadership team she or he puts in place. Whether you’re building a team from a clean start, or working with one you’ve inherited, your job is to evaluate that team and make sure they are able to work with you and carry out your agenda.
This article provides valuable guidance on the most important roles on a leadership team. Use it to your benefit!
Don’t Make the Biggest Mistake
When you’re putting together your leadership team, or evaluating the one you’ve inherited, watch out. Most of us have a blind spot. We really like it when we find leaders like ourselves. We know we’ll get along with them. We know they’re likely to agree with many of our ideas.
After all, the only reason I need a leadership team is that there are too many people and too many tasks for me to oversee it all myself. If I could clone myself that would be perfect, right? Well the next best thing would be to find people just like myself to fill out the leadership team.
First of all, you don’t have all the answers. Don’t believe that? You need an ego check. And if your leadership team consists of clones (or worse, sycophants) then they have the same limitations collectively, as you do individually.
Second, there are roles to be played on any leadership team. It’s possible and desirable for one person to fulfill more than one role. It’s also desirable to have the same role be a strength for more than one person. For example, it’s great if there are two or three people on a team who are all strong in customer relationship management.
But if you stack the leadership team with people like yourself, then the team will be strong in your strengths, but magnified in your weaknesses. (You do have weaknesses, don’t you?)
The 5 C’s
Let’s explore the roles on a leadership team. I call them the 5 C’s. I mentioned the first one above:
Customer Relationship Manager – If you’re leading a customer service organization this won’t be a problem. But if you’re running an IT organization, as I have, this might be your biggest challenge! I’ve met CIO’s with absolutely no customer skills at all. They load up their “leadership team” with technology experts whose customer skills are worse than their own. CEO’s and COO’s need to guard against letting this happen.
Communicator – It’s a clich, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. If you want to keep people on track, you need to keep communicating with them. Leaders who know how to speak and write effectively are critical to your success. Enough said.
Challenger – Executives who stack the leadership team with their own clones overlook the importance of the Challenger. Whether you’re setting out a strategic plan or dealing with day to day tactics, there are decisions that the leadership team needs to make. If they were easy decisions somebody else should have made them. So you’re decision making responsibilities can’t be taken lightly. The decision making process should involve debate and challenge. You’ll want to time bound the discussion so you’re not paralyzed by debate. That’s your job. But if members of a leadership team don’t challenge one another, decision making is less effective.
Commando – You need a leader or two whose greatest strength is getting things done. I was on a leadership team where this role was called the 800 pound gorilla. We rolled it out when we were in trouble, or thought we were about to be in trouble. The guy we relied upon for this role didn’t really care if anyone liked him (though he was, all in all, a very likeable guy). He cut through the you know what and got people fired up and focused. Big projects don’t always go smoothly, and distractions can really bog you down. The commando gets you back on track.
Celebrator – I had a boss who called this person the Vice President of Fun. He or she may not have the same scope of responsibility as others on the leadership team, but this person is constantly thinking of the employees. The celebrator isn’t just about parties and recognition. In this role you’ll want someone who people trust, who can let you know when you’re wearing people out or losing their support. This is someone who can remind you and your leadership team that Susie deserves a pat on the back or the production team feels its concerns are being ignored. This person helps you listen to your organization.
What’s your role on this leadership team? Build it, and hold it together. Help the people in the different roles appreciate one another’s strengths, since that may not come naturally to all of them.
By David Gallagher