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Does your extended leadership team give you a competitive advantage?

by Ana Lopez
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Dr Vince MolinaroCEO of Leadership Contract Inc., is a NY Times best-selling author and consultant on scaling leadership accountability.

Recently I had a conversation with a new CEO. We discussed the immediate challenges she faced in her organization.

Her main concern was her extensive leadership team – the highest-ranking leaders in the company. In her short time with the organization, she found many senior leaders collaborating, operating in silos, and engaging in an internal competition that hindered progress.

One thing became abundantly clear to her: “We need to align and engage our top two layers of leadership in our strategy and ensure their full commitment to becoming the best leaders possible. If we achieve this, it will be our secret sauce , our competitive edge in the market,” she shared.

She is not alone in this belief. An increasing number of CEOs I work with recognize the importance of building a highly expanded leadership team. But what does that mean? Let’s explore that in this article.

But before we get into it, let’s dispel some conventional wisdom that emphasizes the executive team as the most important team in an organization. While it is true that the executive team bears ultimate responsibility for setting the company’s direction, making critical decisions, and ensuring the overall success of the organization, today’s dynamic and complex business landscape requires that organizations adapt, innovate and execute strategies effectively.

In this context, the extended leadership team plays a vital role as the backbone of a company’s success. Typically, the extended leadership team consists of the direct reports of members of the executive team. Depending on the size of the company, this team can consist of 30, 50, 100 or even 300 leaders.

In my experience, I have found that the extended leadership team is the most important thing in a company. When functioning optimally, this team focuses on the following critical areas.

1. Bridge strategy and execution.

The extended leadership team acts as a bridge between high-level strategy and operational execution. They translate the organization’s vision into actionable plans and ensure effective implementation of strategies across departments and functions. By aligning diverse teams with common goals, the extended leadership team can drive the efficient execution of strategic initiatives and maintain focus on long-term goals.

2. Set the tone of responsibility.

As I wrote in one of my books: responsibility leads to responsibility. When a company’s top leaders set the tone and serve as an example of accountability, other employees will mirror their behavior.

3. Driving operational excellence.

A highly expanded leadership team brings together leaders from different departments and functional areas. This diversity of expertise enables effective collaboration and integration across the organization. Working together, these leaders drive operational excellence, streamline processes, and optimize resource allocation. They must identify areas for improvement, address bottlenecks and cultivate a culture of continuous improvement across the company.

4. Realize cross-functional collaboration.

The extended leadership team catalyzes cross-functional collaboration and innovation by leveraging the unique expertise within a company to develop creative solutions and drive positive change. In addition, ensure that the extended leadership team champions new ideas, facilitates their implementation and ensures that innovation is embedded in the company’s DNA.

5. Shaping culture and leading change.

Change is inevitable in today’s business landscape and the extended leadership team plays a critical role in managing and navigating transitions. They must communicate changes effectively, reduce resistance and ensure smooth transitions for employees. By promoting open communication, transparency and employee engagement, the extended leadership team can help build a positive and adaptable organizational culture that supports growth and resilience.

6. Develop future leaders.

Another critical aspect of the extended leadership team is its role in developing future leaders and cultivating a robust succession pipeline. By identifying high-potential individuals within their teams, these leaders invest in talent development, mentorship, and skill enhancement. They can create growth opportunities, empower emerging leaders and ensure smooth leadership transitions. This focus on leadership development strengthens the company’s long-term sustainability and ability to meet future challenges.

What does your company’s extended leadership team look like? Are you sure you have the most comprehensive leadership team in your industry? And does this team create a competitive advantage for your company?

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