An Effective Leadership Team . . .

That which is to be most desired in (a team) is oneness and not sameness. Sameness is the worst thing that could happen to (a team). To make all people the same would lower their quality, but oneness would raise it.  — Stephen S. Wise

There are a lot of various beliefs about what constitutes an effective leadership team and from my point of view many are just plain wrong!

One of these wrong yet prevalent beliefs has to do with “hiring the best” and letting them get on with it.  Hiring a collection of superstars with great track records and excellent skills does not always create a winning team.  Just look at professional football in the UK for example.  A team full of highly paid superstars may be able to draw large crowds to games and demand higher fees from those bidding to televise their games, but they don’t automatically win a majority of games.  There is a difference between being able to play the game expertly and being able to play the game expertly together.

In American baseball, statistics show that the teams with the highest collective player salaries are not usually the league winners, but the winners come from the middle of the pack.  So obviously something else is required to finish atop the league tables besides high priced talent.

The same is true of business leadership teams.  The highly paid collection of super-talented executives is not always the best leadership team for the business.  While recently this has been most evident in banking and financial services, it is actually the case in all industries.

So what else does it take if skill and brains are not sufficient?

I have worked with, coached and advised executive leadership teams for the past 35 years and of all the requirements I keep coming back to three essential ingredients for creating a winning leadership team.  Two of the three are internal to the individual, in their DNA so to speak, and the third is a team process requirement.

Intrinsic Requirements:

To be a successful member of a successful business leadership team takes two elements that come from inside the individual:

  • A genuine love of people.   You must truly love, enjoy being with, appreciate and respect people and have a genuine care and concern for them.  After all, all businesses are ultimately people businesses.  If employees, customers and teammates don’t feel a genuine, authentic respect and appreciation for people from an executive, they will always be guarded and suspicious and won’t fully engage with you or your business.  Compliance is not engagement.
  • A passion for the business.   Success will never come if you believe “it’s just a job”.  To be effective in leading a business and leading people you must have a deep passion for your business.  You’ve got to love your product, love your customers, love your business.  Otherwise it’s just a job and it’s easy to take short cuts.

Want a good example?  We all know several of these types of leaders.  I have been fortunate to know many such leaders. One who genuinely loves the business and loves people is recently retired Frank Tempesta, former President of Textron Systems Company near Boston.  A successful leader with a love of people and a passion for the business.  If you know a leader with both these intrinsic elements, study them, learn from them and build these traits in yourself.

Process Requirements:

The third element I find as key to the success of a business leadership team is a process that requires individuals to solve business problems together.  This is one of the “leadership processes” I talk so much about as a breakthrough way of working.  It’s just the opposite of silo-based problem solving.  Individuals who work together to solve business problems, rather than leave to solution to the functional leader or functional “experts” where the problem exists, tends to solve the problem faster, usually with a simpler solution, and more cost effectively.

Rather than hoping a team will work this way it is up to the CEO to build a “leadership process” that requires team-based solutions to business problems.  One of these is the Rapid-Strategy-Deployment™ process used by a few leadership teams that makes the senior team responsible and accountable for the overall business strategy and not just their functions or departments.

“Whenever we have a problem we cannot solve, we put together a cross-functional team and I am always amazed at the solutions they come up with,”   –Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Renault and Nissan.

Take a look at your leadership team through these three lenses.  Like what you see?  If not, change it.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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