Senior Leadership Teams: What it Takes to Make Them Great
by Ruth Wageman, Debra A. Nunes, James A Burruss, J. Richard Hackman, Harvard Business School Press, 256 pages, $29.95, Hardcover, February 2008, ISBN 9781422103364
One need only to look at the business headlines over the past decade telling tales of misguided CEOs to know that our concept of leadership needs to change. Today's business world is much too complicated to expect any one person to lead a large company. Leadership expert, Warren Bennis, clarifies: "we cling to the myth of the Lone Ranger, the romantic idea that great things are usually accomplished by a larger-than-life individual working alone. Despite evidence to the contrary...we still tend to think of achievement in terms of the Great Man, or the Great Woman, instead of the Great Group." Reading Senior Leadership Teams
is a first step to changing this mythology. Teams ease the feelings of isolation associated with being at the top while providing a well-rounded sense of knowledge.
Building a smoothly operating senior team takes skill, time and planning, a process that is often overlooked. The four authors are on a mission to guide leaders in the creation of great senior leadership teams. Over 100 teams around the world were researched, some at well-known organizations like Unilever and AeroMexico, others at smaller organizations. Their findings: six conditions for successful senior leadership teams. Three of which are essential: compelling direction, right people, real team. Three of which enable the team to be more efficient: solid structure, team coaching, supportive context. One chapter is dedicated to each condition, peppered by real-life examples.
The CEO of AeroMexico, Arturo Barahona, faced the challenge of presenting and selling a compelling direction to his senior leadership team. The airline, previously owned by the
state, was in the process of moving to private ownership. However, each team member interpreted the direction of the company differently and was so focused on their department goals, that they couldn't see the larger picture. In this case, the authors point out, the "chief executives must articulate to their teams a purpose that is consequential, challenging, and clear."
The authors emphasize that "you cannot make your leadership team great. But you can put in place the conditions that increase the chances that it will become great." Senior Leadership Teams
will help you identify and institute those conditions.