Sunday, September 24, 2023

Why it is important to find unity as a leadership team

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Jenni Field, author, international speaker and corporate communications strategist at Redefining Communication.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: no leader is an island.

Several years ago I worked with a company to help it through a period of rapid growth, and this really caught on. When we got into the “fix” phase, changes had to be made to some of the operational aspects. This is where behavior change comes in handy, and it’s often the most inconvenient part of a change. One discussion went like this:

Me: “We need to change who attends this meeting so that the right people are in the room to make decisions and assign tasks.”

Leader: “I’m fine with it. I know what we have to do to get things done.”

Me: “I understand, but we need to make sure it’s not all in your head and not all on your list.”

Leader: “I’m the only one who can do what it takes.”

Me: “You can’t be an island within your organization.”

The leader operated alone. And no great leader operates alone. For organizations to succeed, leaders must collaborate with others. Whether as a leadership team or through the organization, a leader’s ability to work with others, trust others, and lead others is what helps everyone thrive.

What does ‘unity’ mean in a leadership team?

When we talk about leadership, we often talk about individuals – the one person for the many. Increasingly, however, as an organization grows, leadership is about a team. A group of leaders through a hierarchy – from line managers to the CEO – must be unified. It is about a group of people who are looked to, or looked up to, for direction and clarity. If that direction of travel and the way to get there is not clear, it ends in chaos.

I am in no way advocating that leaders leave their personalities at the door and become carbon cutouts or hide the characteristics that make them unique. We all need to maintain our own style and nurture our strengths. What I am advocating is alignment. If there is no alignment – no matter how well-intentioned you are – your behavior can have a negative impact and your team can become confused and unengaged by the inconsistencies.

When the leadership team is not aligned, it can lead to a lack of trust, as individuals can develop different agendas that do not align with the goals of the organization. There can also be several messages and if the cascade is not aligned, information is shared inconsistently. Apathy – which leaders simply don’t participate in – is one of the worst outcomes in my opinion.

Coming back to the conversation above, I believe a lot of this comes down to ego. In the book Ego: get over yourself and lead, author Mary Gregory talks about how leaders need to control their egos to build trusting relationships. Gregory talks about the ego traps that can mean an over- or under-inflated sense of importance. I learned from this book that as leaders progress in a company, the privileges they receive also increase, which can lead to a feeling of superiority. And if leaders aren’t open to feedback, they can start acting in isolation and lose a sense of what’s going on in their business.

With this in mind, I have a few tips on how leaders can stop functioning as an island and build unity within their leadership teams.

Five ways to reunite your leadership team

1. Identify where a lack of unity exists. What’s really going on and why aren’t people aligned? The fear of being vulnerable among team members prevents the building of trust, so that needs to be addressed immediately.

2. Strengthen your team. This isn’t about everyone working the same way, which is boring and inauthentic. It’s about making sure that the way you lead your team has some similarities with the way other leaders in your company lead their own teams. Different experiences lead to mistrust, creating a state of threat.

3. Close the say-do gap. This is the separation between what you say you are going to do and what you actually do. Words and actions are important. This always comes up. If you say that your door is always open, but you are not really reachable, it can have an effect on people.

4. Agree. By this I mean making sure you and your leadership team agree on the meaning of the words you use. Think, for example, of ‘cooperation’, ‘connection’ and ‘silo working’: what do these words mean in your organisation? Be specific. A leadership team is made up of different individuals with their own perceptions and beliefs, so make time to agree on what key keywords really mean.

5. Disagree. Make room for open debate and have respectful conversations that are constructive. Remember that people may disagree with you and have different opinions and you can still collaborate. You and the rest of your team need to be able to have productive disagreements to move forward and make changes.

The power of the group

Activist Loretta Ross is often credited with the statement: ‘If people think the same idea and go in the same direction, that’s a cult. When people come up with many different ideas and move in one direction, that’s a movement.”

Leaders often underestimate the power of a group. I’ve noticed that many get bored easily and think they should always do things differently. But as a leader you have to be consistent. You have to inspire, but more importantly, you have to be trusted and credible. As a group, this means you and your team must work together to align with what you’re doing. In turn, you may intentionally drive forward. You can create change and take people on a journey. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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