Collective Leadership Effectiveness: Not A Theory, Not An Accident

Increasing complexity in business and the world makes leading challenging. Threats come from many places. The lines of competition are blurring. Politics at home and abroad add more layers of complexity. There is no shortage of disruptors ready to take down your business.

It is called leading in a world with VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In this environment, the collective effectiveness of leadership makes the difference. Many leaders are not prepared for it. They may be intelligent and competent and yet can often fail to achieve team and organizational goals.

The missing link is often "collective leadership effectiveness," the ability of an executive leadership team to maximize its considerable talent and intelligence to solve complex challenges together.

I recently had a conversation with Robert Anderson who conceived of "The Leadership Circle Profile," a leadership assessment model that measures the leadership effectiveness in individuals and collective effectiveness in teams.

"Collective effectiveness must become a strategic priority," says Anderson. "No single leader is smart enough to lead from his or her own brilliance alone in a highly complex environment. If leadership is not making collective effectiveness a priority, then what are they missing?"

Getting the right people in the right seats is only part of the challenge. It is as important that they are rowing in the same direction. Collectively effective teams consistently find ways to leverage their intelligence. When leaders leverage the team, it becomes a multiplier for innovation and for solving tough challenges.

"Teams with low collective intelligence are not likely to find leverage at the rate required to stay competitive," says Anderson. "You must row together and harvest a multiple on the collective intelligence within the system."

It begs the question: How do you know if your leadership team is collectively effective? There are obvious signs. Companies whose leadership elicits a patriarchal, command-and-control style are more than likely falling short on collective effectiveness.

The Leadership Circle Profile is a unique 360-degree assessment that correlates high individual and collective leadership to business performance. We can identify the collective effectiveness of the leadership teams and extended leadership teams. A team that has high collective effectiveness usually will score north of the 50th percentile, giving them a competitive advantage.

Collective effectiveness is made up of 18 creative competencies in the Leadership Circle Profile. They are called "creative" because they are visionary, purposeful, strategic. Leaders drive the culture. Creative leaders elicit passion. They focus on possibilities, action and outcomes. Creative leaders break the tension between people playing it safe versus making a significant contribution, and nurture a culture that is agile, adaptive, engaging and meaningful to all stakeholders. This is what makes thriving in a VUCA world possible.

A team has little chance of keeping pace with escalating complexity if it does not have permission to do so. If you want to create a vibrant culture of possibility, start at the top. Give your team the ability to use the company's greatest resource — their collective intelligence — to create the future possibilities for your company.

"Ask your team," Anderson says, "to envision the business that if it existed would put you out of business. The emergent vision and passion released can change everything. It comes in the cross-fire of ideas, where they multiply and compound. If you can't do that in a group environment, then you will be a follower."

Steve WakeenComment