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Beyond the heroic CEO: the changing challenge of leadership | Peter Hawkins

Beyond the heroic CEO: the changing challenge of leadership | Peter Hawkins

teams as they tackle these new, unprecedented challenges. We will explore the characteristics of a global leader and how to develop global leadership. We’ll look at how to develop top leadership teams over time; leadership that can engage effectively with multiple stakeholder groups – shifting hearts and minds in the moment / in the room. We will investigate how to develop whole-system leadership for a sustainable world and consider how leaders should handle the power and influence that inevitably comes with their responsibilities. This research will support the essential conversation about genuine change in the way we approach leadership in this new world.

To this end a number of my colleagues are already carrying out important research in leadership and leadership learning. Dr. Bernd Vogel has worked with his colleague Heike Bruch, on how leaders and leadership can better engage their people, to boost and focus their organisation’s energy to ignite high performance. My colleague Dr. Kleio Akrivou is researching leadership ethics and moral engagement and my colleague Claire Collins is researching leader development and the role of coaching.

Developing high performing

‘Great teams are those who know exactly what is required and have a passion for their collective purpose.’

leadership teams My own recent work has been in looking at how to develop high performing leadership teams and is published in my new book ‘Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership.’ (Hawkins 2011). I begin with an example:

In one company I worked with the senior board had spent months complaining about their new chief executive, a recent external appointment to the company. After being continually lobbied to do something about him, in a board meeting I turned to them all and said: ‘I’m fed up with you all telling me what is wrong with your chief executive. I think you are all delegating leadership upwards and playing the game of waiting for the perfect chief executive. So the question for you as senior team members is: “How are you as a team going to take responsibility for his weakness?”’

In this book I present a new model of the five disciplines of the high performing team. For a team to be successful it needs clear commissioning. This includes a clear purpose and defined success criteria by which the performance of the team will be assessed. Then the team must clarify its own mission including purpose, goals and objectives, core values, ways of working, roles and expectations and importantly a compelling vision for success. Living this is a different challenge. The team needs to constantly co-create together so the mission has a beneficial influence on performance. The team must then connect outside to engage staff and stakeholders and transform relationships that drive improvements in the organisation’s performance.

The five disciplines of high-performing teams Task

Clarifying Primary purpose Goals Objectives Roles

Core Learning co-ordinating

Inside (within boundary) and consolidating

Reflecting, learning, integrating

Co-creating Interpersonal and team dynamics. Team culture


At the centre of the model is core learning that sits in the middle and above the other four. This is the place where the team stands back, reflects on its own performance to consolidate the learning for the next cycle of engagement.

The high-performing leadership team needs to be effective in all five of these disciplines. Although there is clearly an implied progression for moving through these disciplines, they are a continuous cycle and there is a constant dialogue between them. So, as is often the case, if the commissioning is not clear the team needs to have a dialogue between creating its own mission and getting buy-in and agreement from stakeholders.

A high-performing leadership team takes time out to take stock, reflect on the patterns within and between disciplines and learn more about both its own team functioning internally and externally.

Great teams are those who know exactly what is required and have a passion for their collective purpose. They have a keen interest in each other’s successes, setbacks and learning and a real sense of partnership between the team and with the board and stakeholders.

This does not occur by happenstance. It occurs when the five disciplines are in place, connected and in balance. Team coaching needs to be able to work with all five of these disciplines, each of which require a different team coaching approach and a team coach who can connect the personal, interpersonal, group, organisation and wider system and business dynamics and help the team not only become high performing but create greater value for the system they serve.

A carefully selected and well supported team has far more chance of being successful in leading today’s organisations than a heroic leader. But, we must be aware of replacing one myth with another about a super- team. A successful team needs to practice, have a commitment to learning and development and receive quality team coaching to be effective.

8 9 Outside (within boundary)

Commissioning Ensuring a clear commission for the team and contracting on what it must deliver

Connecting and engaging all the critical stakeholders

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