David Bull

Jun 18, 2019, 8:00 AM

Leadership teams: you can’t do it all by yourself!

If you are a CEO, you know you can’t do it all by yourself. That’s why the Leadership Team is so important. The most effective organisations are led by a committed, unified team sharing responsibility for the whole. Leading this team is one of the most vital functions of the CEO. 

It’s easy to take your leadership team for granted and forget to give them the attention they deserve.  If your fellow leaders are in conflict, lacking direction, sending different messages or pursuing their own agendas you are in trouble. 

To focus on in ensuring a high performing leadership team you need:

  • The Right People: The people you appoint will need to have all the skills for their function, but also the skill, perspective and desire, to be leaders, not only of their own specialisms, but of the whole organisation. 
  • The Right Team:  Consider how they will perform together as a team. They need to be able to ask each other, and you, the tough questions and use their skills to support one another?
  • The Right Size:  It is hard to make a large team work without factionalism (just think about the Cabinet!) It is also more difficult to build the relationships, trust and respect that hold a team together. In my experience a team of 3 to 5 best enables an effective unit, and forces you to delegate. 
  • The Right Approach: If the leaders model a culture of cross-functional collaboration, empowerment and respect, this approach is more likely to be reflected at all levels. How they are seen to support each other, consult and reach decisions collectively are key elements of the organisational culture which the top team needs to live by.
  • The Right Leader:  To lead leaders requires an extra measure of inclusivity, engagement, empowerment and respect. You need to give them collective authority for organisational decisions. For me this means seeking consensus for key decisions, enabling everyone to express their views and listening carefully. Even where consensus isn’t achievable, the process of seeking it is always valuable. At best you will find novel solutions. At worst everyone feels heard. 

If these five “right” characteristics are to succeed, you’ll need to act in 5 key dimensions:

  • Recruitment: You can’t rely on the right person seeing an ad. You’ll need to use all the networks you can access (and recruitment consultants if you can afford it). Also find ways to ensure existing team members can have some input.
  • Culture: If you don’t already have clarity about your preferred organisational culture, this needs to be given priority and the leadership team needs to lead, exemplify and model that culture. 
  • Structure: Your organisational structure needs to reflect the size of the top team. There is no perfect structure. All structures are about building walls. What is important is how you get people to work around them. Your leadership team will show the way, sharing openly, seeing the mutual dependencies between functions and ensuring everyone understands they are working for the aims of the whole. If your structure doesn’t allow you to build the right team, change it. 
  • Personal Development: Make sure you don’t neglect your own development. Your leadership skills are vital. At least make sure you have a coach or mentor to help you think about your own development. 
  • Working well together: Even if each team member is brilliant it is still important to think about how they work together. Awaydays allow you to escape the daily pressures, focus on the team itself and work through issues together. 

In all these areas, independent external support can be invaluable.

Whatever happens, never neglect your leadership team or take them for granted. They are one of the most decisive keys to success. 

An Action Planning Consultant, David Bull has previously led four international organisations including Amnesty International UK and Unicef UK. He led Unicef UK to become one of Britain's most successful and high-profile fundraising and campaigning charities with voluntary income of £100m. Now a trustee of two international NGOs, David undertakes consultancy assignments including mentoring CEOs, advising philanthropists, public speaking, and identifying international development programmes for a major new global initiative. He enjoys helping leaders to develop their organisations, solve problems and find innovative ways to overcome constraints and achieve ambitious results. In 2015, David was awarded the CBE for his humanitarian work.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, including how to ensure your charity has the best leadership team, David can be contacted through Action Planning at office@actionplanning.co.uk

A fuller version of this article can be found at https://worldtorights.org/2018/05/21/making-your-leadership-team-the-best/

David Bull | AP Associates | Insights

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