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How To Develop A Leadership Team: Five Simple Rules To Follow

What we do as a leadership team matters!

How we speak to each other, the help we offer to one another, how willing we are to learn from our peers – all of these set the tone, not only for how we work, but for the employees who watch us with beady eyes.

So you can forget about leadership activities or best courses, we won’t be giving you any of that…

Because developing a leadership team is about the actions and behaviours we exhibit every day. Here are five steps, rules, guidelines – however you want to frame them – for pulling this off.

1. Set expectations, clarity and ground rules

Assume nothing! Whether it’s how we communicate with each other, the templates we follow, or the organisation’s leadership style, clarity helps…

Who is the lead on this project? Which process are we following? What outcomes are we aiming for?

If we’re going to avoid power battles and internal politics, it’s crucial we establish expectations and ground rules for how we work together.

We’re then accountable and pulling in the right direction.

Not only is that good for fruitful and harmonious relationships, it’s the bedrock for everything else we’re going to discuss.

2. Share knowledge with each other and level up as a team

Knowledge sharing is great! We crowdsource answers to problems based on the experience we’ve built in the right context.

Creating a company brain and building on compound knowledge often helps us drive performance.

Because we’re not repeating mistakes, we’re learning from people who’ve achieved success and tapping into those internal experts to provide answers to repeat questions that hold us back.

Now, we all know that managers deal with high-pressure situations that could have costly consequences. From handling difficult conversations to managing budgets, they’re on the frontline of things that can have massive impact on how effective we are as an organisation.

So it’s even more crucial for them to be leaning on their colleagues’ experience, and there are ways you can foster this…

3. Coach each other and create group problem-solving environments

We actually have a brilliant example of this from a HowNow customer: Investec.

The distinctive bank and wealth management company run a Developing Team Leadership program internally, which combines modular learning sessions with group coaching.

And the second part allows people to help each other through day-to-day challenges, especially with the groups continuing to engage after the official program has come to an end.

“Beyond the program itself is the support team. If you’ve gone through a program with a coaching team, those people often continue to meet and hash out issues.

“So it really enables a network and further learning along the way. Which is something by design.” – Lior Chuvali, Leadership Learning Experience Manager.

What we’re aiming for is a platform where people understand each other’s problems and are able to provide advice based on their relevant and contextual experience.

There’s a brilliant quote from Kasper Spiro that sums up this mindset:

“If somebody in your company has a question, somebody else probably has the answer. And if somebody has a problem, somebody else probably has the solution. And that’s what you want to achieve.” 

4. Recognise that leaders aren’t just people with titles, they’re whoever we choose to follow 

People are part of the leadership culture, even if they’re not necessarily part of the management team:

“Often, people think leadership is something that comes with a title… But there are a lot of people who are quietly leading, through the nature of how they carry themselves and the way they inspire people.” – Chichi Eruchalu.

There’s a massive difference between people following because you they feel obliged (they have a management title) and because you’re inspired by how they behave (their day-to-day actions).

Think of it like this: a leadership culture already exists in your company, you are not simply trying to build one.

So, don’t be afraid to break out of the hierarchy! If someone is respected and admired because they have a load of evidence they’re good at Thing A, let them lead a project around that. Or maybe you just bring them in to consult on it.

Managers can improve their leadership by listening to people who aren’t managers, you just need to identify those organic leaders and give them a platform.

5. Test ideas on a smaller scale

We don’t need to roll everything out at a company level to understand whether it’s useful or not.

Because if it doesn’t land, the negative consequences could be pretty severe.

Instead, we need this ‘think big, start small’ mentality. Try something on a small scale, understand whether it works, and then either roll it out, test again or pivot to something new.

And that’s why we need that collaborative leadership culture.

Let’s say we want to try monthly performance reviews, rather than quarterly. Rolling that out everywhere takes a lot of time and effort without much indication of whether it’ll work.

But one team could be our canary in the coal mine. Maybe marketing give it a try for three months and report back to the other team leaders. Along the way, they could leverage them to improve and refine based on real-time data, and therefore increase the chances that we build something effective.

Read our complete guide to leadership development in the modern world

Leadership Development Guide Updated Brand Colours

Check out our other leadership development resources