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Break-Through Power: Professional Leadership Teams

Break-Through Power: Professional Leadership Teams

Moving from work groups of leaders to professional leadership teams

Is your senior leadership team living up to its full potential at this critical point in time? Do one or more leaders now not fit their role, the team? Can the team break through the pandemic-induced problems to lead to & sustain a successful new normal?

It’s not sufficient for individuals to work at their personal very best. It’s definitely not optimal. Your senior leadership team has the potential to create break-through performance if they work as a professional team…not just as a work group of individual performers. An integrated, pulling together in the same direction, whole team – not the collection of often-competing personal, gossip-after-the-meeting alliances that are so common.

Formal leaders are “professional” by definition…they have the necessary formal education, training, demonstrated competencies, experience, certifications & licensures. They are paid to perform. But does the leadership team entity itself meet the same professional criteria? How much more successful can the organization be if led by a professional team of professional leaders? How do you see your senior leadership team? As a work group of professional leaders? Or as a professional team?

As the senior team goes, so will go the down-chart teams. Are they work groups of professional leaders? Do your senior leaders identify more as professionals in their respective fields than as professionals in the field of leadership? Do they identify primarily as specialist leaders? Do they own just their part of the whole? Do they align as much by personality as by role? Or are they a professional team of professional leaders? Do they perform as a professional team with skilled players? Are they adaptable to changing situations? Are they synergistic? Do they sacrifice personal goals to win against adversity? Even on the bench, are they still in the game?

Let’s play with s sports analogy…perhaps trite but nevertheless applicable. Which of the following does your team currently resemble?

  • The NBA/WNBA…one team, constant fast pace, fluid offense-defense switches, alley-oops
  • The NFL…separate offense and defense teams, steady pace with bursts of intense plays
  • The MLB…one team, at bat or in the field, transactional play, measured pace
  • The PGA/LPGA…Steady-tempo…team wins if members win

Which does your senior leadership team currently most resemble? Where are the gaps between current & ideal? All of these analogous models have some critical factors in common. How well does your team:

  • Set each other up for successful plays – or hold back, perhaps sabotage team members?
  • Clearly communicate in challenging situations – or sit back & tsk-tsk failures?
  • Switch fluidly between offense & defense – or have a hard time adapting?

As a team, do they…

  • Assess team & individual performance – or are uncomfortable with critical feedback? 
  • Develop bench strength & succession plans – or maneuver to promote favorites?
  • Declare & resolve conflicts – or hold grudges, create chronic barriers to success?

Does your team…

  • Perform as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts – or rely on individual efforts?
  • Identify the senior team as their primary, core group – or as secondary to their division?
  • Wear team membership with pride – or snipe at it in the hallway, between meetings?

The point of all of this…your senior leadership team has the potential to create organizational break-through performance. As a professional team, they can achieve outcomes not possible as a work group of individual leaders. The mandate for transforming a team of professional leaders to a professional team of leaders needs to come directly from the top! Full-throated CEO support is required to move past team member resistance & doubt. It will take time, but the benefits will immediately begin to accrue for the organization.

Here are some thoughts about how to move your senior work group of professional leaders to a professional senior team.

Phase 1: Standardization

  • Define the knowledge, skills, experiences needed for success as a senior leader in your organization…in general & for specific roles
  • Define the intelligence (verbal, numeric), behavioral traits & motivating interests…the over-lapping traits that provide statistically valid & reliable prediction of successful job fit.

Phase 2: Assessment

  • Create safe & distraction-free spaces for team member transparency & learning
  • Conduct individual & team assessments to determine aggregate strengths & opportunities (see sample at end of article).
  • Examine the leadership team/organization proprioceptive intelligence – the leadership awareness of the workforce experience

Phase 3: Development

  • Set specific team development goals…tied to identified organizational needs
  • Set, implement, monitor team building curriculum
  • Define & move the team from their current culture toward their ideal Phase 4: Implementation
  • Don’t allow “good” to be the sacrifice of “perfect”.
  • Set & monitor simple success metrics; reward successes, debrief & learn from mistakes.
  • Pre-set the “inter-accountabilities” for major situations – budgeting, emergencies, prolonged absences

Phase 5: Extension

  • Encourage senior team members to coach & teach division or department
  • Identify & sponsor high potential senior leadership successors
  • High-touch onboard new team members – pre-placement, key connections, team bonding…for full, sustained engagement


  • Effectively participates in the team
  • Is transparent to the team
  • Is credible within the team
  • Avoids counter-productive alliances
  • Sets up other team members for success
  • Adapts to changing roles/conditions
  • Provides productive critical feedback to team
  • Develops successors for own and other team positions
  • Declares and resolves conflicts
  • Buffers between team and org

There’s nothing mystical or new in this article. It’s more a matter of helping you to poke your head above the fray to think about breaking through all of the stuff that the pandemic has brought. I hope these thoughts help. I’d like to be your personal &/or senior team coach.

Contact me if you think I might be of help. Ev Taylor, PhD 480-720-9065 




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