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How do you succeed at developing leadership skills necessary to control a team of high powered executives?

Written By

Denise Cooper

Chief Reinvention Officer for Coach HR LLC

Briefly Speaking

Developing leadership skills is a choice and involves good diagnostic skills. To master leadership you'll need to ask the right questions and involve others in crafting the right solution. Try these exercises to help you correctly determine the challenge and gather the necessary support to be successful.
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Your question seems to imply you want to control a group of people. Trying to control anyone is a poor use of your time and energy. If your leadership style is centered on controlling people then you miss the opportunity to be your best self as well as allow others to be their best. So the first suggestion is to change your language or thinking developing leadership skills.  The next suggestion is to clarify what is the problem or challenge you're trying to solve.

When working with executives I ask them questions that clarify what they mean and what they want to happen.  My suggestion is to first clarify what you mean by "high powered". 

  1. Are they “high powered” because they produce exceptional results and have earned the respect and freedom to operate from senior executives?
     
  2. Are they “high powered” because they have big or dominate personalities and you don’t?
     
  3. Are they “high powered” because they are bullies and their behavior overshadows poor or mediocre performance?

Write out your answers and try to separate fact from hearsay.  Gaining clarity on what it means to be high powered will also help you understand what areas you lack the confidence or the skill to lead this group. 

The ability to lead well is a learned and practiced skill. Most people believe you are born a leader whereas now we know from scientific studies you can learn to be a great leader. Unfortunately, developing leadership skills is as difficult as dieting. Food is everywhere and you have to eat every day, you have to know what's good for you to eat because what works for someone else may not work for you and finally you can't be successful without the help, guidance and support of others. The same is true about leading.  You're always doing it and it works best when you are authentic and have a supportive group to help you improve. 

After you’ve answered the questions above here's another quick exercise you can use to assess your ability to influence and lead others.  It will provide some great ideas on what to include in your plan to lead this team. 

  1. Rate your ability to influence your peers and other executives from 1 to 5. Write each person’s name on the left side and by each person’s name place a rating.  One being a person who doesn’t know you and a five is someone you can be relatively honest with them because there's a high level of trust between you.
     
  2. Write a brief description explaining the rating. Suspend judgment. There are no right or wrong answers.  Examples could be a long history or friendship or you have a similar leadership style. Or it could be you have nothing in common or you disagreed with and didn't support a major project they were backing and now you find yourself in opposite camps.
     
  3. Now do the same exercise with this group of “high powered” executives.  Do see any patterns? In working with one newly hired executives the main pattern found was the “high powered” executives all had deep long standing relationships with his peers. This threatened his sense of freedom to make decisions and felt like his team was just another set of eyes judging his performance.

The action plan included asking for advice and assistance from his peers and other executives on how to best motivate a highly talented team and still influence the direction of the work. 

He used the advice to create a plan that sustained the teams’ high performance and allowed him to relax and lead authentically.  The analysis also allowed us to address a number of challenges that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.  One key to long term success at this company was the importance and high regard for relationships and loyalty. Violating that unwritten rule would have jeopardized this leader's success.

In another instance, we discovered the group wasn’t “high powered” just two members were well connected. One executive was regarded highly because of their performance while the other was considered a bully and many were secretly hoping my client would simply eliminate the problem. The action plan we crafted focused on how to minimize the bullying aspects of the one individual and how to best utilize the high performance of the other to achieve the desired business results. 

In the end, we all make up stories about what's happening and then we talk with others to add to the story.  The best results occur when you can first clarify what are the desired results and then write down the facts without all the perceived “reasons why s/he did that” and any hearsay. Then develop the relationships necessary to obtain accurate information, guidance and support from others.

Leading is a long term objective. Your ability to lead is often impaired because of the same reason diets don't work. Diets don't work because we want quick fixes and to expend little effort. When they work it takes self-awareness, an understanding of our emotional triggers and how we respond to those triggers. Your action plan should include a description of how to respond when faced with an emotional trigger. Analysis and planning produces a healthy lifestyle and will improve your leadership skills to the point you can lead any team no matter what their connections or performance.

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2 Reader Comments Share your thoughts.

    Expert
    Denise Cooper 2 years ago
    Mario, this is wonderful. Thanks for reading it and posting a comment. I hope you are successful with the exercises. Denise
    Mario A. Fetalver, Jr 2 years ago
    nice article. i am a leader that is why this is helping me.. thanks