Why Leadership Teams are Different

Posted by: heather

 

Leadership teams often face issues that are unique to their role at the top of an organization.

Managing multiple purposes: Leadership team members have responsibility for the organization as a whole while also being accountable for specific program and operational portfolios. This can create tension as team members work to secure resources necessary to deliver their individual priorities even as they seek to steer the entire organization. At its most challenging,

 

 "turf" conflicts can arise, or at a minimum, team members may miss opportunities for strategic collaboration as well as learning from and supporting each other.

Short- versus long-term view: Related to the point above, the work of the leadership team is to forecast and manage with an eye to long-term trends and organizational positioning (strategy) while also responding to immediate demands and crises (tactics and operations). Tensions between short- and long-term priorities and the sheer number of responsibilities can lead to feeling overwhelmed and allowing the short-term to crowd out the strategic.

Decision-making processes: Because members of leadership teams wear many hats, expectations regarding who makes what decision can be confusing. Team members may wonder about how to make decisions when overall strategic decision-making by the team intersects with one leader/team member's portfolio.

Open communication: Newly formed teams and those that have worked together for a while may have difficulty communicating openly and honestly with each other. At times there are fears of saying "the wrong thing," "not being seen as a team player," and the like that keep people silent. And yet the silent team member may have valuable insight into solving pressing issues.

Effective feedback: Often team members provide criticism in the name of feedback, leading to distaste for receiving feedback in general. Distinguishing between criticism and feedback, and effectively offering (and receiving) feedback so that it is useful is crucial for teams to promote creativity and excellence. Giving and receiving feedback can be especially difficult for leadership teams where a perceived need to impress peers can be high.

Diversity: Teams, in general, and leadership teams in particular, may express diversity as a value, but not intentionally address it, so the benefits of inclusion can be missed. Some people are uncomfortable discussing race, gender, education level, and the like and their contribution to individual and team capacity. Mixed with silence, a lack of awareness of style and culture can lead to unintended misunderstandings, conflicts, and eventually, turnover, while limiting the creative energy diversity can inspire.