executive leadership team having discussion
executive leadership team having discussion

In his best-selling book The Magic of Thinking Big, Dr. David J. Schwartz talks about the time he helped his friend pick out his new sales manager. His friend had started a business that was experiencing rapid growth, and it was time to promote a sales manager. There were three candidates, and the business owner wanted Dr. Schwartz to meet and evaluate all three.

To do this, Dr. Schwartz embarked on a 1950’s version of Undercover Boss and followed each candidate around for a day, pretending that he was a marketing consultant who was there to offer insights on how to make more sales. The first two candidates he followed had similar mindsets: they wanted to stick to the status quo, and didn’t want to see much change. They felt happy with what they were doing, and didn’t want anyone to “shake things up.”

The third candidate was happy to meet with a marketing consultant, and between client meetings would offer ideas that he had been thinking of. He even told Dr. Schwartz “I’m glad I have someone to tell my ideas to!”

Guess which candidate Dr. Schwartz recommended?

Yet, in many companies, management is often selected by who has the longest tenure, not who is the best thinker. When leadership is passively evolved, and not intentionally formed, businesses run into problems.

Leader Vs. Manager: What’s the Difference?

Is a manager automatically a good leader? Is a leader naturally a good manager? The answer to both of those questions is no. So, what is the difference between leadership and management?

The main difference is that leaders have followers and managers have people working for them.

Leaders get people to understand and believe in your mission, vision, and goals of the company, while managers are making sure work is being accomplished and goals are being met.

There can be plenty of crossover between these roles, but at their core, their responsibilities and expectations are different.

A business needs both effective leaders and managers to get the job done. Below we have a few strategies to help you with building effective leadership and management teams.

What to Keep in Mind When Building an Executive Management Team

When selecting upper management and forming a leadership team, you want to include more than just department heads. After all, if you only select a few individuals with impressive titles, you may be leaving out some of your best thinkers! Instead, look for leaders who share your organization’s vision, mission, and values. These employees have the right mindset to drive your vision forward and make it a reality.

In addition to a winning mindset, look for leaders who drive innovation and are a strong culture fit. Being innovative, like candidate three in Dr. Schwartz’s story, and having the people skills to express and implement new ideas are strong indicators of a potential leader.

Listen to our podcast with talent development expert, Erin Correa, as she discusses building an executive leadership development program.

Ensure That Team Members Are Sharp

You’re looking for leaders who are great (emphasis on great) in four categories – business acumen, analytical ability, creativity, and people skills. Your executive management team directs your initiatives and directly impacts every facet of the employee experience, so don’t settle for mediocre in any of these four attributes. 

Be Selective

Resist the urge to hire leaders who are clones of those already on your team and develop an urge to find leaders who think of and execute ideas differently. The great World War II general, George S. Patton, famously said, “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Your upper management team should be full of thinkers and leaders, not followers! Look for people who bring the skills, insight, and experience that may be currently lacking in your organizational leadership.

Characteristics of a Strong Leader

Integrity: Doing what’s right even if it isn’t the best thing for the current time, whether it’s giving proper credit, acknowledging failures, or putting safety and quality first.

Clear Vision: Knowing where the company stands now, the direction it’s currently going, and where it should be in the future.

Enthusiasm: Having excitement for the company’s mission, products/services, and people.

Communication: Leaders must motivate, instruct, and discipline – all of which require strong communication skills.

Strategic Mindset: Challenging the status quo and encouraging multiple perspectives.

Servant leadership is a style of leading organizations that has more recently been gaining value and advocacy from experts. Check out our infographic to see what makes servant leaders so effective!

Common Traits of Strong Managers

People-Oriented: Looking after employees’ needs, listening, and involving them in decisions.

Direction: Having the ability to direct the day-to-day workload and anticipate needs.  

Process Management: Establishing rules, processes, and standard operating procedures.

Execution: Be able to take a vision and break it down into achievable milestones that can be followed by the team.

One person may not encompass all of the above traits, so look for people who may have qualities similar to these, and who are able to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.

Look Beyond Your Management Team

Great managers are in high demand, which means that succession planning is an absolute must! The strongest companies are always developing tomorrow’s leaders today. Developing a winning mindset in your middle management today will mean excellent leaders tomorrow when they must be called upon to handle the responsibilities of top leadership positions.

Following these steps is a sure-fire way to craft an effective and strong executive leadership team that drives results for your business from the top down. If you’re developing your leadership team with a focus on leadership roles, skills, and team cohesiveness, your business will go a long way!

The BizLibrary Collection is your one-stop-shop for training and development content, covering all the topics your organization needs to deliver a successful program to develop your leaders. Examples of leadership topics in the collection are building leaders’ emotional intelligence, developing the skills of emerging leaders, and establishing an intentional and healthy culture.

Watch a 1-minute preview of “Leveraging Servant Leadership for Your Team: Becoming a Servant Leader” from The BizLibrary Collection here: