The Primary Lever for CEO Success: Leadership Team Development

August 5, 2021 - Mark MacLeod

The Primary Lever for CEO Success: Leadership Team Development

In Jim Collins’ classic management text “Good to Great”, the author looks at the greatest companies of his era to identify patterns in their success. The first step he identified in great companies was team assembly, or as he put it ‘getting the right people on the bus’.  

Many early-stage investors recognize the importance of team. If you back the right founders, they will figure the rest out. Easier said than done of course. 

The more capital you raise, the higher the expectations for you and your team. This is well known. Yet when I start working with CEOs, more often than not we find that the CEO is tolerating one or more leaders that are good (or perhaps not even…), when there is only room for great leaders. 

As Collins puts it ‘Good is the enemy of great’. So true.

The importance of leadership team development

How do you expect to achieve greatness and deliver on the expectations of your shareholders (and all stakeholders) if you tolerate sub-par leaders?

The senior leadership team is the primary lever for the CEO. Everything you want done gets done through them. Your success as CEO is directly tied to leadership team development and strength. 

When you build, grow and retain the strongest leadership team that your scale and resources allow for great things happen:

These leaders free you to work ON the business because they autonomously run the business. They are responsible for what happens IN the business. This allows you to stay at the right altitude.

These leaders are aspirational. People on their teams aspire to become them. This creates loyalty, engagement, and learning.

These leaders become magnets for talent. Great people want to work for great leaders.

Conducting an annual leadership performance review

Examine your leadership team at least annually. Ensure everyone is great and can continue to be great as you scale.

Questions to consider during your leadership performance review:

When I look at my leadership team, Is every single person great? Are they aspirational? Would I work for them?

In what areas does each leader need to develop in order to become great? How can I support them to get there? 

Can they get there? Do they have the potential and desire to grow faster than our company is growing?

Looking at our goals for the next 1 – 3 years, can our leaders grow enough to be as strategic, relevant and impactful in the future as they are today?

Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

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