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Posted By Jack McGuiness on 04/15/2020

Why Leadership Teams Fail to Live Up to Their Potential

Why Leadership Teams Fail to Live Up to Their Potential

As published in Chief Executive Magazine on March 27, 2019

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

Faulty Assumptions

A few faulty assumptions contribute to the challenge of building a great leadership team. First, CEOs assume that bringing together a group of talented senior managers will be sufficient to build a great team. Senior executives often struggle to balance the need to run individual departments with their enterprise accountability. Next, executives assume that their current skills and previous experience will be adequate for becoming good leadership team members. Prior experience doesn’t typically prepare executives for the unusual dynamics they will encounter on a leadership team – external demands are greater, evolving from functional only to enterprise focus can be challenging, and visibility is heightened internally and externally. Finally, leadership teams are often constructed by default as vehicles for sharing information, reporting out on departmental progress, and receiving updates from the CEO. 

We have seen the manifestation of these assumptions lead to great frustration as characterized by the statements below from a few CEO clients:

  • “Each team member is extremely talented, but they just don't seem to be on the same page without me inserting myself.”
  • “Our leadership team meetings are stale - we report out functionally, but we don't challenge each other or push for innovation or to continually get better.”
  • “While we all seem to like each other, it is very rare that the team or subsets of the team get together to address important enterprise-wide issues without me in the room.”
  • “There is a clear ‘elephant in the room’ but everyone just seems to avoid the potentially controversial topic.”


Great leadership teams never succeed by accident. Without nurturing, leadership teams can slow down, derail, or even paralyze a whole organization. The good news is that the payoff of stepping back and deploying a diligent approach to addressing these faulty assumptions and ultimately to building a great leadership team can be dramatic.

“Without nurturing, leadership teams can slow down, derail or even paralyze a whole organization.”

Great Leadership Teams are Game Changers

Research[iii] by global consulting firm McKinsey suggests that executives are five times more productive when working as part of a high-performing leadership team than they are when working as part of an average one. The research also indicates that aligned leadership teams have a 1.9 times increased likelihood of having above-median financial performance. Gallup and other employee engagement research firms continually point to effective leadership teams as key contributors to employee engagement. Despite this revealing data there is no avoiding the time and energy required to build a great leadership team. A concerted effort must be devoted to building the structural and relational foundation required for leadership teams to thrive. The CEO plays a pivotal role in building this important foundation.

Conditions for Success

To read the condition for success visit  https://chiefexecutive.net/ceo-role-building-leadership-team/

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