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An effective leadership team is fundamental to the success of any business. Get the right mix of talented and experienced individuals, who can collaborate, challenge each other and affect change, and you’ve got a winning combination. If only it were that simple.

Too often when businesses are making appointments at a senior level, there’s the assumption that you can put together a group of highly motivated people, with the right experience and expertise, and they will spontaneously work together to achieve great things for the business. This is not always the case. Similarly, for CEO’s and business owners who inherit an existing executive team, one might assume they have been working well together already and this will invariably continue. But a gifted group of individuals at the top of the business does not always make a great team.

What’s clear is that creating a world-class leadership team is fundamental to achieving business objectives. Without the right people at the top of the tree, along with the right level of diversity, alignment and trust, organisations will struggle to achieve their potential.

  • Diversity is key: Leadership teams require a rich mix of people to perform at the highest level. Board diversity in terms of age, race, social background, gender and experience will offer businesses a broader range of opinion on strategy, a greater chance to innovate and the diversity of thought needed to remain competitive. There is simply no benefit in populating your leadership team with individuals who all think and act the same. Businesses need individuals who are prepared to challenge ideas and strategies, as well as offering the breadth and flexibility to adapt to changes in the market.
Similarly, if you have greater diversity at board level the chances are there will be greater variety throughout the business. Leadership teams are often a microcosm of their wider organisation, so if, for example, there are more women in your leadership team providing positive role models, women at lower levels of the business will be incentivised to seek opportunities to develop and progress.
  • Board alignment: The leadership team might incorporate a variety of individuals but they still need to align behind a common goal once a strategy is in place. There are no room for silos in the c-suite if you want the business to thrive.
To this end, each member of the leadership team needs to embody the right values and behaviours. Do they listen to each other? Do they understand their role and accountability in pursuing the business objectives? Are they completely committed to achieving the overall goals or do they prioritise objectives within their own section of the business? How well do they make decisions? These are all questions that need to be asked when putting together an effective leadership team. Taking a step back and assessing how well the leadership team works together is an essential part of building the team fabric. In many cases, groups will have the makings of a great team once they are focused on the overall goals and silos are abandoned.
  • Trust: Finally, complete and uncompromising trust between members of the leadership team is an essential part of building a successful and highly effective leadership team. Without this key characteristic, leadership teams, and the organisations they represent, will struggle to realise their full potential. Having trust enables individuals to be more open and honest, it encourages a flatter, more collaborative culture and, above all, it provides the right environment to build relationships both within and outside the board.
Whether you are building a new leadership team or assessing the effectiveness of an existing one, the process of evaluating and continuously developing the capabilities of the board is key. Having individuals with the right experience is important but it’s not enough to create the level of alignment and trust needed to succeed.

Building and developing a high performance leadership teams that can deliver on strategy is a topic which reoccurs time and time again in our discussions with Members at Criticaleye. Those organisations which are successful at getting the right blend of talent at the top reap the benefits while organisations who fail to address this crucial issue will struggle to stay competitive.

By Charlie Wagstaff, Managing Director, Executive Membership, Criticaleye