A leadership team whose members view one another as competitors is one with dysfunction. When members are not on the same page, battling internally, protecting turf and working at cross purposes become dominate priorities. Conflict runs rampant. Frustration is an epidemic. And moving things forward is next to impossible.
In this environment of competitors, silo versus silo becomes the operating norm. Community doesn’t exist, and innovation can’t thrive. Alignment around a common vision and strategy for the organization is not feasible. Professional satisfaction and rewarding results seem unattainable.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Turning competitors from internally based to externally focused is possible while establishing a community of leaders. Two factors are key to this turn-around: commitment and clarity.
Commitment to reject internal competitors
First, leaders must acknowledge that leadership doesn’t revolve around one leader or a couple of functional areas. Rather it is built upon a recognized and respected team, one where the individual silos are woven together to form a community.
This community comes about from a realization that not any one leader will have all the answers. To flourish today, a one-company mindset must be inherent in the company’s value system. Leadership must be distributed, leveraging the creativity, know-how and dedication of all leaders on the team.
Distributing leadership also capitalizes on diversity – the unique business acumen, experiences and perspectives of each leader along with his or her capabilities from functional responsibilities. Embracing and honoring this diversity helps shape a culture of strength not just in terms of its cohesiveness, but also for its vulnerability.
When leaders plant the one-company mindset in their core, they know they must commit to having each other’s backs for the benefit of the whole. Asking for and receiving help emerges as strength in the organization’s culture. It is required to get the work done, solve the problems, fight the competition and stay on top of market trends.
Clarity to eliminate internal competitors
Second, leaders must know what is expected of them. They must have clarity on the vision, strategy and leadership expectations. With well-defined success metrics, personal accountability and responsibility become grounded for each leader and expanded into the team as a whole. Included in that clarity is an obligation to hold others to the same high standards for making leadership and community a differentiator for the company.
When expectations are discussed and agreed upon, playing by the old rules is no longer be feasible. Instead the new way of being in the leadership community and acting with the one-company mindset takes a firm hold. Those who choose to adhere to the internal-competitors approach will not be tolerated.
Leaders must not allow a few lame leaders to poison the collaboration. With transparency, there is a duty to give feedback and challenge others on the team. It’s a duty steeped in what the team needs to be successful with employees, customers and stakeholders. Those who opt not to adapt will self-select out or be asked to leave.
It’s hard work to build trust and create the mutual support required for this level of commitment and clarity. And it doesn’t happen over night. I know from first-hand experience that grit and resolve are required to make the shift. I also know that it is extremely rewarding work to create a leadership community and feel a part of something special.
It’s only too late if your team doesn’t begin now. Ask yourself what part you will play in changing the culture to include a community of leaders.