Management of leadership teams

By Rasmus Thy Grøn, Partner, LEAD

The manager has a special significance

One factor in particular is important in developing well-functioning management teams, and that is the leader of the management team. The type of leadership exercised by the leadership team leader has a significant impact on the foundation, collaboration and performance of the leadership team. The challenge is that while the leadership team leader can single-handedly run the leadership team into the ground, it takes the will and effort of all members of the leadership team to create a successful and productive leadership team.

Although many companies have been focusing on the importance of well-functioning leadership teams in recent years, many organizations and leaders feel that this is a new discipline that they lack the knowledge and skills to succeed in. Managing leadership teams is more than just one-on-one leadership. The shift from leading individuals to leading leadership teams is both a shift in one's personal leadership and leadership identity, and requires new leadership skills.

Successfully managing leadership teams requires a keen understanding of what your role as a leader of leaders requires, how to develop well-functioning leadership teams and cross-functional collaboration processes, and how to develop your leaders to run their own units.

The right leadership at the right level - leading leaders

A common challenge in managing leadership teams is leading at the right level. As a leader of leaders, you need to be aware of whether your leadership is aligned with the role of a leader of leaders and a leadership team. In other words, whether you are leading at the right level. That this is a challenging task is supported by both practical experience and research, which suggests that between 30-60% of all managers' careers are derailed at some point. A common cause is a lack of understanding of what proper leadership at one's level is and a tendency to stick to the behaviours that brought success at one's previous level in the organization. Tasks that belonged at the manager's previous level of management often stick like glue to the manager's hands. This leads to an entire chain of command that is out of balance and solves tasks that should be handled by others.

Examples of this challenge for managers who have moved from managing employees to managing managers are:

  • Focusing too much on the day-to-day professional management of your managers (managing them as if they were employees) and under-prioritizing the overall strategic management of the area.
  • delegating too little responsibility to your managers and wanting to have your hands in every detail.
  • failing to set, drive and develop an effective leadership team that delivers cross-functional results.
  • taking over the direct management of professional employees and destroying your managers' management space and authority.

Drive your business through a strong leadership team

For many leaders of leaders, it's a challenging discipline to go from running their business through one-to-one management of individual leaders to running and developing their business through a strong leadership team. The first step in creating a high performing leadership team is to get a shared understanding of what it takes to be a well-functioning leadership team. What are the prerequisites and benchmarks that must be in place in order to work well together and create good results. Here are three key points that challenge many management teams:

  • Does the leadership team have a clear purpose - i.e. a shared vision of what the leadership team is set up to produce?
  • Is the leadership team working on the right tasks - i.e. tasks that are aligned with the purpose, require a joint effort and cannot be solved as well elsewhere in the organization?
  • Does the management team have an appropriate meeting practice - a practice that supports the management team in fulfilling its organizational role, working on the right tasks and realizing its purpose?

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Remember individual development of your managers

Finally, the role of a team leader requires the ability to develop the leadership skills and expertise of your individual leaders. Individual leaders are the building blocks in the construction of a well-functioning management team that creates results both individually and together. Developing individual leaders is about being able to identify and develop their leadership competencies on two overarching dimensions:

  • How you lead - captures how leaders exert their influence and manage their people
  • What you lead - captures how the leader drives their part of the organization forward, balancing short-term profit and long-term growth

The challenge here is that both practical experience and research shows that leaders often have a strong preference for either Guiding or Supportive leadership, and the same for Strategic and Operational leadership. However, effective leadership is characterized by the ability to balance these complementary leadership competencies. Therefore, one of the most important tasks for a leader of leaders is to develop their leaders' versatility - their ability to balance the four elements. In other words, the leader must pay special attention to the following in the development of their leaders:

  • Is the manager operating at the right level, as per the point about right management at the right level
  • Which leadership competencies should the manager develop in the future to ensure both short- and long-term success in their unit, according to the versatile leadership model's point about balanced leadership

A challenging discipline

Leading leaders and management teams is a complex management discipline that requires more than one-on-one leadership. To succeed, the leader must be able to exercise the right leadership at the right level, develop a well-functioning management team to drive their business and master the development of their individual leaders' leadership capacity.


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