I've always thought of senior leaders as the mini-CEOs of their teams. Everyone looks to them for strategy, for expectations, and, of course, for leadership

But if a team hears from one leader that an initiative is hugely important, and then another one dismisses it as unnecessary, people become worried and uncomfortable. Confusion reigns because no one is sure what to focus on. 

The worst thing that can happen in a company is misalignment in leadership. 

While you need senior leadership to act like the mini-CEOs of their teams, you also need everyone to be on the same page when it comes to larger initiatives or projects. It's a delicate balance that requires you to align and empower your senior leadership team.

Striking that balance is always an ongoing process, but there are a few ways I've learned to do so as a CEO:

1. Set up weekly leadership meetings. 

Our senior leadership team at ThirdLove recently started getting together for weekly meetings. Anyone who is director-level or above meets for 45 minutes. 

The purpose of this meeting is to make sure everyone is aligned around the same goals and knows what's going on in the company, even if it doesn't directly involve them at that moment. And if people are getting questions from their team, the meeting is a great time to get clear, direct answers and understand what advice other senior leaders may have. 

A weekly meeting may seem excessive, but it gives leaders time to communicate and keeps everyone on the same page.

2. Hire a leadership coach.

Even leaders need training, which is why it's wise to bring in an outside firm to hold leadership sessions once a quarter.

These sessions are really about figuring out what type of leadership team you want to foster. How do you create open communication and dialogue? How do you create trust? What are the codes of conduct? What's expected of a leader? The sessions are a time to work through some of those complicated questions together. 

Because the truth is, not everyone is coming into these positions with the same level of experience in leadership roles. What is common knowledge for someone with years of experience at the director or VP level may not be obvious to someone who's recently risen to the role. 

The leadership sessions ensure your team is working with the same knowledge base and understanding. 

3. Communicate your expectations.

As a CEO, I've learned the importance of scheduling weekly check-ins with any senior leaders who report to me directly. Even if it's only half an hour, these check-ins get us in the habit of having open conversations and setting clear expectations. 

By regularly meeting with your senior leaders, you get a better understanding of whether or not they're prioritizing the right goals. You can answer any questions they have around expectations. And if there are any roadblocks you can help with, you can provide clear feedback on how to overcome them. 

You're not a mind reader--and neither are any of your senior leaders. The more clarity you can give them regarding expectations and goals, the more confident they'll be in leading their team. 

4. Focus on career development.

Most senior leaders don't really need managing. They've made it this far in their career, so they're beyond needing day-to-day instruction or oversight.

But that sense of independence can make it easy to overlook their career development needs. Even though your leaders are in senior-level positions, they still have ambitions they're working toward. To focus on their development, take time to have a conversation about how they're doing, where they want to go, and where there may be potential new opportunities for them.

Your senior leaders should be empowered to run their team like a CEO. They should have the autonomy to make decisions for their team. But that only works when senior leadership is aligned around the same goals and initiatives--and the only way to get that alignment is through regular, open communication and feedback.

Published on: Oct 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.