5 Keys to Building a Leadership Team


Louis CarterAuthor, CEO & Founder of Best Practice Institute

Friday, June 1, 2018

Many senior business executives think they have a leadership team at the helm. In fact, they only have a leadership group in place. The difference means everything to the business’s future success.

Article 5 Minutes
5 Keys to Building a Leadership Team

A management group meets weekly and often includes updates on issues and assigning tasks.

Such groups have nothing to do with leadership when, at their best, they expedite business projects, and so businesses should focus on building that group of executives into a leadership team.

1. Define focus

Executive groups are made up of senior managers from their respective silos. As such, they come to meetings with individual agendas, concerns, and biases. These individual members will often tussle for resources, attention, and approval.

A team, however, shares values and goals. They may work with different tactics, practices, and tools but, they accept that their humble commitment to a common vision will do more to advance the purpose of the whole enterprise.

It’s my experience that framing mission, vision, and values as distinct events is the wrong way to go. The key to any strategy is the integration of its elements; to co-create the mission, vision, and values that define a business and its future.

Adam Bryant writing for The New York Times, suggests,

Leaders owe their teams an answer to the same question that young children often ask their parents before setting out on a long drive: ‘Where are we going and how are we going to get there?’


The proper answer takes more than simple mission and vision statements. If executives, not to mention the managers, have not participated in the creation of those values, there is no reason to expect engagement from employees.

It’s the CEO’s primary task to align brains, talents, and abilities on a clear path to purpose and success. That’s where team performance lies.

2. Process leaders

It’s not enough to hire promising talent or even experienced leadership. It’s not enough to hire on past achievement. A business with a future focus understands that leadership has a dynamic.

The team dynamic cannot be left to rest without incentive and direction to grow. Like legendary coaches, true leaders delegate, share accountabilities, and partner with high-potentials for mutual gains. Team gains come from the integrated performance of sub-groups.

Thomas Smale, a contributor for Entrepreneur, emphasizes the trait of empathy;

The servant leader strives to understand and share the feelings of each team member as well as those of his or her customers. Giving trusted coworkers the benefit of the doubt by assuming the good in them goes a long way toward instilling loyalty and trust in you from your team.


Great team leaders solicit, listen, integrate, activate, and model but, they lead from behind and serve without notice. Unlike the great coach, they don’t rely on fan acclaim or local sports press. So, the best assessment comes from 360° feedback.

Research at Best Practice Institute finds,

Constructive accountability delivers positive feedback in real time, fueling your workers’ motivation and boosting your company’s productivity.


Keeping succession planning and strategic planning in mind, the leader who brings value to market prioritizes the development of leadership team members.

3. Clarify leadership team purpose

The best leadership teams are futures teams. Their purpose defines the organization’s short-term future and strategizes its long-term goals. It drives simultaneous and layered tactics to achievement.

It’s the leadership team’s job to shape and model the corporate culture to realize these goals. The central purpose drives individual members to push down tasks and accountabilities so they align in function and performance.

Delivery requires a culture of respect and trust, characteristics that come with difficulty to some executives. Understanding the difference between executive groups and leadership teams is made clearer here:

  • Executive groups are left to coordinate operational issues; leadership team must define, clarify, and deliver strategies.
  • Executive groups test individual strengths; leadership teams test their ability to cooperate.
  • Executive groups work on the horizontal; leadership teams prize the organic and fluid.
  • Executive groups include outstanding contributors; leadership teams reward co-leaders and complementary behaviors.
  • Executive groups create binary tasks while leadership teams promote coherent alignment.
  • Executive groups have a division of responsibilities; leadership teams find complementary talents, processes, and tools.

Corporate purpose, then, lies in engagement, connection, and complementary performance.

4. Draw pictures

One of the biggest challenges facing leadership teams is simple communication. Leaders can draw big pictures but given the chance to do this verbally, they run into difficulties with function-specific vocabulary, metaphors, and vision.

It’s more than an exercise to challenge them with sketching the future they see and the paths that lead there. Pictures add dimension, direction, and context to imagination. Laid out like a board game, participant players can visualize their role, route, and reward.

Matt Mayberry writing for Entrepreneur, said,

All top performers, regardless of profession, know the importance of picturing themselves succeeding in their minds before they actually do in reality.


But, the emphasis here is on sharing that visualization. Put on the table, others can see what will work and what won’t. A shared picture evokes a shared possibility for all involved.

5. Put emotional connectedness first

As reported by Ann Cohn in Forbes,

Emotional Connectedness – high personal connectedness and high organizational connectedness – drives discretionary effort, more creativity, positivity and more desire to collaborate.


Emotional connectedness does more than engage employees. It values one-on-one encounters that exchange personalities, ideas, and values. Encounters that build connectedness, commonalities, and culture.

Emotional connectedness builds character, integrates individual behaviors, and raises the bar on performance. With low personal connectedness, you expect your work to go unrecognized. If you feel connected to the people around you but not the company, you enjoy the social aspects of work. But, when you are emotionally connected to the business, you will focus on performance and achievement.

Louis Carter

Author, CEO & Founder of Best Practice Institute


Louis Carter, MA is the author of over 10 books on best practices in leadership and management including Change Champion's Field Guide and Best Practices in Talent Management. He is one of the top advisors to C-level executives - helping them and their organizations achieve measurable results. Carter is the recipient of ELearning! Magazine's Trailblazer Award, HR Tech Conference Top Products Award, and readership Excellence Magazine's Best in Leadership Development for his work as Chairman and CEO of Best Practice Institute. He received his MA in Social/Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Connect with Louis on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.


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