Assessing your leadership team – Mark MacLeod

September 14, 2022 - Mark MacLeod

Assessing your leadership team

When I begin working with new CEO clients, we spend a lot of time talking about their leadership team. In fact, after I learn the current state of the union of the CEO him or herself, the very next focus area is the leaders that report to that person.

CEOs regularly tolerate good leaders when they should only have great leaders. The biggest outcomes tend to founder-led start to finish. So, there is a 100% correlation between your performance as CEO and the outcome of your company.

Going a layer deeper, I would argue that there is a 100% correlation between the strength of your leadership team and the likelihood that you will succeed as CEO (and deliver that outcome).

If your success as CEO is 100% tied to the strength of your leadership team, then you need to know if you have the right people. This is not a post on performance reviews. Rather, a simple framework for gut checking if you have the right people by your side.

In my view, senior leaders should share the following elements…

AspirationalLeaders that the staff reporting to them want to become. Want to emulate. People who have been there, done it, have gotten the t-shirt. This does not necessarily mean ‘old’ or from a ‘big company’. But ideally this person has been where your company is going.

Failing that, this person is so clearly strong, self aware, masterful in her discipline and thus credible, that you have a high degree of confidence that even though she has not been there before, she’s going to get there. It is inevitable.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg often said that he hired people that he would work for. That is an aspirational bar.

Talent magnets – As a result of the person being aspirational, people want to work for him or her. There is a clear trend of former employees looking to follow your leader and other people applying because they have heard of this person and want to work for them. Inbound organic job applications should rise. This person should clearly demonstrate her judgment and ability to hire the best for each role. A task made easier by the large number of applicants she gets for each role.

Leverage – While you invested significant time in hiring and onboarding your leaders, once they are up and running they make you go faster. They solve issues before you even think of them. They don’t bring you problems for you to solve (note: this does not suggest that they don’t want your input…). You are free to focus on other things safe in the knowledge that your leader has got things covered (note: this is not suggesting abdication, another topic for another time…).

Results – At the end of the day, a leader is hired to deliver results. A leader assembles a team and gives them direction and resources in order to deliver results. It’s that simple. Yes, there are other things that matter – culture, values, etc, – but at the core, you hired a leader in order to get results.

There are many more ways to peel the onion of team building and assessment, but in my books this helps me understand whether a CEO has the right leaders.

Some questions to consider as you evaluate your leadership team:

Aspirational

How confident am I in this leader? Breaking this down, in which aspects of her role am I most comfortable? Least comfortable?

Does this leader demonstrate clear domain knowledge and mastery over her discipline?

Is this a leader I would work for?

Talent magnet

What has happened with the recruiting, retention and growth of the team since this leader joined?

What evidence do I see to show that this leader is bringing strong talent our company?

Is the leader’s team stronger than it was before she joined?

Leverage

Is this leader fully up and running? Does she fully own her organization and its results?

Does she come to me to solve issues that I believe she should be solving herself?

Ultimately, does she make me move faster or does she slow me down?

Results

Does this leader consistently do what she says she will do? Do I believe in her ability to deliver on goals?

Is that delivery systematic and predictable or does it rely on luck or heroics?

Am I confident enough to share her goals with the board knowing that if she doesn’t deliver it is my fault?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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