3 Components of High Functioning Leadership Teams

3 Components of High Functioning Leadership Teams
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High Functioning Leadership Teams Matter
We know from our leadership simulation assessment data that high functioning leadership teams are crucial to an organization’s sustained success, resilience, and growth.  Building high functioning leadership teams impacts every part of the business, from day-to-day operations to long-term strategies.

Three Critical Components of High Functioning Leadership Teams
In our leadership development experience, the algorithm for success requires a full commitment to three critical components: psychological safety, courageous followership, and connectedness. These three components drive inclusion and belonging, which are proven to be fundamental for high-performing and high functioning leadership teams.

  1. Psychological Safety: Embrace It Together
    Psychological team safety often requires taking interpersonal risks, which is why some people anchor on the word “safe.” In reality, psychological safety calls for people to be brave, not just comfortable (in a safe environment), and the payoff is powerful.

    Imagine you’re in a team where everyone freely shares their ideas, supports each other, and is unafraid to speak their minds. This safe space, where all voices are valued and respected, is what Amy Edmondson calls “Psychological Safety” in her book, “The Fearless Organization.”

    In its simplest terms, psychological safety is like the glue for high performing leadership teams and for action learning leadership development programs. It’s not just about being free from fear of backlash when sharing ideas. It’s about being brave enough to voice your thoughts, even when the stakes are high, and knowing your team’s got your back.

    For teams that believe in psychological safety, every team member commits to cultivating an open culture of feedback where candid discussions inherently embody self-respect and respect for their peers. 

  2. Courageous Followership: Speak Up & Dive In
    Ira Chalef came up with a compelling idea called Courageous Followership. He noticed that team members often do two things: question decisions or support them. Some people will always support decisions but may not help solve problems or bring up new ideas. Others might question everything but only help execute decisions if they come up with the idea.

    High performing leaders don’t operate in either extreme. They can ebb and flow in both directions with the rest of the leadership team. This requires each leader to be a courageous follower.

    Simply put, a courageous follower is someone who debates and then commits. They aren’t scared to question things and explore ideas with an open mind. But once a leadership team decision is made, they’re all in, giving their full support to ensure the team reaches its shared goal.

  3. Connectedness: Stay Connected
    Genuine connection allows a leadership team to translate the right conditions (psychological safety and courageous followership) into strategic action and measurable progress.

    In the realm of team dynamics, connectedness plays a pivotal role in fostering psychological safety and enhancing overall team performance. Much like a jazz ensemble, each leadership team comprises unique individuals, each bringing their distinct instruments and styles to the stage. Some may exude boldness, akin to the blaring of a trumpet, while others radiate subtlety, akin to a double bass.

    However, the true magic of a jazz band, like that of a high-performing team, lies in the improvised harmony they create together—a symphony of connectedness. In the world of jazz, musicians listen attentively to one another, skillfully intertwining their melodies and rhythms to craft a cohesive and enchanting composition. This process isn’t scripted; it thrives on the spontaneity of the moment.

    Similarly, genuine connectedness within a leadership team transcends scripted interactions; it involves tuning into each other’s frequencies, understanding, and valuing the unique rhythms and melodies each member brings.

    How do we create connectedness?
    Think back to steps 1 and 2 (Psychological Safety and Courageous Followership); consider them as the practice sessions and learned skills each musician brings to the stage. These skills truly shine in the spotlight of connectedness, converging into a melody of collaborative innovation and support. Connectedness requires acknowledging, appreciating, and authentically engaging with one another’s unique tunes.

    It means discovering harmony within our diversity and contributing experiences to co-create collective impact, valuing each individual’s contribution.

    In the world of jazz, when missteps occur during a performance, musicians improvise, embracing a new path through the piece. Similarly, our connectedness equips us to navigate disagreements, misunderstandings, or missteps in our team’s journey. This spontaneous adaptation ensures that the journey continues to resonate beautifully, supporting one another to remain in sync toward creating more value and impact – even during moments of friction.

The Bottom Line
Effectively aligning and leading a senior team is not always easy.  As leaders navigate complexities, the balance within the leadership team may shift.  To thrive, high functioning leadership teams embrace inclusion and belonging, which is driven by the powerful forces of psychological safety, courageous followership, and connectedness.  What leadership mindsets and behaviors do your teams need to commit to in order to create a high performance culture?

To learn more about building high functioning leadership teams, download The Top Skills for High Performing Leaders

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