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?
They inform each other – i.e. exchange information and inform on issues relevant for other team members
They discuss issues – essentially dealing with complex issues that are important to the business as a whole
They make decisions and choose a direction, set strategies, make priorities and approve business cases etc.
They follow up and monitor processes and decisions – i.e. following up on key figures, project status, implementation follow-through etc.
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.:
Clear preconditions must be defined – engulfing framework conditions that need to be in place in order to create an effective leadership team
Clear processes must be defined – engulfing factors that come in play when members of the leadership team work together to create results
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. 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. Balanced team
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.
1. Clear orders
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.
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.
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.
4. Robust decision processes
Decision processes need to clearly outlined in order for the team to be effective – i.e. it must be clear what outcome is expected of a discussion in the team and it must be clear which decision-making process is in play – Majority? Consensus? Other? Moreover, clear decision execution and follow-up structures must be set in place and the individual team members need to take ownership of and implement decisions loyally in their organization.
5. Stakeholder management
The team and the individual team members need to have an active relation to their surroundings with the ability to actively seek and share information with internal and external stakeholders as well as informing, including and anchoring decisions with key stakeholders.
6. Learning loops
In order to be effective, leadership teams also need to be open to gain insights on what it can do better and then correct it. Essentially, the team needs to be willing to identify and learn from their mistakes and successes and if need be adjust the course.
“Great leadership teams typically consist of strong communicators who are able to create followership to a vision, define a culture, engage an organization and facilitate change.”
Henrik Brabrand, CEO – Albright Life Sciences A/S
1. Creating added value to the organization
Team members must make decisions that drive a positive impact on the organization. This implies that the leadership team is measured on its ability to 1) Create ownership and loyalty to goals and strategies, 2) Facilitate an optimized collaboration across departments/units, 3) Develop the organization and create motivation, self-confidence and enthusiasm, and 4) Deliver on their goals/KPI’s while ensuring optimal resource exploitation.
2. Creating added value to the team and the individual team member
The ability of the team to play each other stronger in the team and being accountable for lifting the whole is key to building an effective leadership team. Additionally, the ability of the team to contribute to the individual member’s development is important. Does it make the individual member a better leader in his/her own resort and does it contribute to the motivation and learning of the individual member are some key questions that makes a difference.
A final key factor that describes not just effective, but great leadership teams, is their ability as a team and that of their individual team members to create engagement around their initiatives. Great leadership teams set a clear direction and creates a compelling narrative that engages the entire organization around the strategy, goals and key initiatives. All research point to the fact, that organizations and their leaders play a critical role in driving employee engagement. When leaders seem to value their employees, communicate to them, provide the necessary support to them to do well and lead by example, they create a strong foundation for employee engagement. Essentially, engagement should be at the top of the leadership team agenda with the objective of building an emotional connection between the leadership team, its members - and the employees – since one can draw a direct line from engagement to retention, productivity, customer satisfaction and financial performance.
Facts about Albright Life Sciences A/S
Albright Life Sciences A/S is a AAA-rated executive search and leadership consulting company and one of the largest Life Science-focused executive search firms in the Nordic region. We serve global and local clients within the Life Science industry.
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Schroeder-Saulnier, Deborah: “Employee Engagement and Talent Management”, article from “The Talent Management Handbook”, McGraw-Hill, 2nd edition, 2011.
Ledford Jr., Gerald E.: “Fostering Employee Involvement and Engagement through Compensation and Benefits” article from “The Talent Management Handbook”, McGraw-Hill, 2nd edition, 2011.
Bang, Henning, Nesset Midelfart, Thomas, Molly-Søholm, Thorkil & Elmholdt, Claus: “Effektive Ledergrupper”: For bedre udvikling, implementering og tværgående sammenhæng”, 2015, 1. udgave. Dansk Psykologisk Forlag A/S.
Gerson, Richard F.: “Achieving High Performance”, HRD Press, Inc., 1st edition, 2006.