The Five Core Behaviours of High-Performing Executive Teams

Five Essential Leadership Team Behaviours for Business Success:

While it might seem paradoxical in an age that often glorifies the “saviour CEO,” it turns out that effective leadership teams consistently outperform even the most competent individual leaders, and this holds true in nearly every context. A recent study by Bain & Company, involving 1,250 firms, discovered a significant correlation between high-performing executive teams and companies that outpace their rivals in terms of revenue growth, profitability, and total shareholder return.

Contrary to traditional corporate focus on nurturing highly skilled individuals with extensive expertise and the right experiences, the real game-changer is the team’s capacity to function as a cohesive unit.

The study identified five key behaviours exhibited by the most effective leadership teams:

  1. Direction—They have a unified approach to strategy.
  2. Discipline—They consistently make and implement decisions and conduct productive meetings.
  3. Collaboration—They cultivate trust, engage in intentional problem-solving, and hold each other accountable.
  4. Dynamism—They are adept at preparing for and leading change.
  5. Drive—They are both industrious and resilient.

Interestingly, a large percentage of top teams find it challenging to collaborate effectively. A 2020 survey by the Center for Creative Leadership revealed that 65% of senior executives considered their leadership teams to be ineffective, with only about one in five rating them as high-performing. Teams are the epicentre of performance and culture in all organisations, and top teams have a unique opportunity to serve as influential role models.

Top teams create and adhere to a shared vision by aligning around their organisation’s purpose and strategy. They then translate these into short- and long-term priorities for their respective business units. They remain committed to the strategy, even when faced with external pressures, prioritising the greater good over individual or other interests.

Efficient meetings and robust decision-making are crucial elements of disciplined teams. Without these, decisions become inconsistent, meetings turn unproductive, and tasks requiring meticulous attention—like planning and monitoring—are compromised.

A lack of collaboration can create a toxic environment. In contrast, highly collaborative teams are focused, energetic, and accountable. They foster a culture of trust and inclusion, which is essential for innovation and feedback.

Dynamic teams are proactive in both seizing opportunities and tackling challenges. They continuously gather information from various sources and create conditions conducive to innovation.

Teams that maintain their drive over the long term enable their organisations to not only survive but flourish. They prepare for setbacks and are industrious, embracing constructive debate and resolving conflicts effectively.

Post-pandemic, a leading consumer products company chose to invest in enhancing the effectiveness of their top team. Regular off-site meetings have been organised to build trust and alignment, along with short, informal leadership huddles to expedite decision-making on crucial issues. They are reimagining their operational approach, believing that their collective effectiveness will positively impact both business performance and organisational culture.

By assessing and addressing these five dimensions, top teams don’t just improve their own effectiveness; they set a precedent that can transform their entire organisation.

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