In my experience in business, it takes a team that works together to be successful, in conjunction with leadership from the top.
You may be able to establish a startup while working alone, or managing autocratically, but long-term business growth and success requires the power of effective group relationships to achieve exceptional engagement, team alignment, and results.
I believe this is a lesson that the great Steve Jobs learned the hard way, with his singular focus when starting Apple, with a low priority on relationships until he was forced out during a growth crisis. Fortunately, he learned from experience and returned to lead his team to new heights.
I recently saw a great summary of specific guidance on how to build relationships with your leadership teams, to minimize the learning curve experienced by Jobs and many others, in a new book, Leadership Levers by Diana Jones.
She is a trusted and experienced leadership adviser, executive coach, and author. I will paraphrase her key recommendations here:
1. Humbly share your knowledge and your expertise.
Being willing to contribute subject matter expertise is important to positive peer relationships, as long as you do it positively and with an open mind. You need to be a role model for your staff, in teaching them how to think about the implications of pushing their expertise in decision-making.
2. Be an astute context discerner and direction setter.
To be perceived as a great group leader, you must display an ability to read today's rapidly shifting contexts, and be able to help the team navigate the way forward. Be especially sensitive to issues that can weaken customer relationships, antagonize stakeholders, and need timely responses.
3. Offer insights and learning from your experience.
Impactful leaders highlight key activities in their career when offering insights and recommendations. Richard Branson kept meticulous notebooks of scribbled ideas, insights, and to-dos from key events in the past, for sharing with his leadership team for his many companies in Virgin Group.
4. Be future-focused with your vision and direction.
Compelling leaders share often their vision and direction and the results they want. In this world of continuous change, these are the constants that can keep your team aligned while they clear the inevitable roadblocks and navigate to a shared future and success. In so doing, you actually create the future.
5. Keep the team's eyes on progress and results.
You do this by sharing results in team meetings, rather than activities to date. Results bring optimism to groups, and they are your success measures. Don't take them for granted. Focus the conversations on creating the future, not unraveling the past. Ask for results to be praised for the week.
6. Be an insightful process navigator for meetings.
Navigating is essential when a group is going around in circles, or a team member has gone down a rabbit hole, or is diverting with curve balls. It's up to you to address the whole group, share your insight on what is happening, and reset the path forward. Navigators are able to move the group forward.
7. Become a silent observer as well as a participant.
The most effective leaders manage to regularly step back out of the action in a meeting to observe patterns, reflect, generate insights, and then rapidly act to get things back on track or set a new direction. Monitor staff engagement, and act quickly to solicit reengagement from key players.
8. Be sure to notice and champion others' contributions.
As the leader, you must take responsibility for the development and visibility of others in group meetings. In a short period, appreciative alliances are built among all members. This leads to better group problem-solving and speedier decision-making across the whole leadership team.
9. Move often from silence to collaboration and alignment.
Letting others know what you think and feel on important matters is more likely to create collegial alignment in any group than remaining watchful and silent. Avoid being oppositional by saying "I disagree." Better to be curious by asking questions or offering your own collaborative insights.
One thing that continues to surprise me with business leaders I meet is how many tend to sit silently in a group meeting, mistakenly thinking it is positive to let the team debate and come to consensus without your intervention. As you can see from these recommendations, your insights and relationship are critical to the best results, and to a positive group view of your leadership.