6 Essential Conditions for a High-Performing Leadership Team

06 December 2017

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6 Essential Conditions for a High-Performing Leadership Team

High-Performance Leadership Team Coaching: Part 2

‘If it’s not possible to establish the essential conditions for a senior leadership team it is better not to form one at all.’ Wageman et al¹


The step up from being an effective team to a high-performing, transformational leadership team is very difficult to achieve. The team that can do it is more likely to succeed in a complex organisation than even the most heroic leader.

Wageman et al proposed that there are six conditions necessary to have a high-performing leadership team.

1. A real team

The first is that the leadership team should be ‘real’². This means that your organisation needs to invest in three enabling conditions:

Interdependency:  Your team has deliverables that both require them to come together to do work collectively and to rely on each other’s contribution when they are not together; the members and its leader will continue to seek support and advice from each other when apart, and keep holding each other accountable.

Boundedness: It needs to be clearly agreed who is in the team (and therefore who is not).

Some degree of stability: Despite the constantly changing composition of modern teams and organisations, teams need to develop ways of managing that instability so that the team can have stable membership for a reasonable period.

2. A shared purpose

Make sure that you can answer the question – ‘What is the team for, that no other entity in the organisation could accomplish?’

3. The right people on the bus

Membership of your leadership team isn’t determined by rank or title, but rather by a commitment to the shared purpose and being part of a group that takes company-wide responsibility.

Obviously, they also need to have the right skills and experience to be able to contribute effectively. They also need to see themselves as agents of change, be courageous, have strong belief in people, have empathy and integrity and to have the lifelong learning skills to allow them to adapt to ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty.

Having the right people is an important first step but they each need clear guidance on what contribution and behaviour is expected and how their strengths can best be brought into the service of the team. Once these things have been established, it’s essential that you give regular feedback to all your team members.

4. A strong team construction

Your team should have no more than 10 members and it needs a strong sense of collective responsibility. It needs to have a small number of clearly defined tasks which are strategic, mission-critical and cannot be delegated. They should have agreed protocols about how to behave when together and apart.

5. Be properly resourced and rewarded

Your team must be equipped with the educational, material, and informational resources it needs to deliver its tasks. It also needs a performance reward structure that recognises collective contribution over individual contribution.

6. Effective team coaching

Wageman observed that all the best teams are continually coached. He saw that their CEOs were equally strongly focused outside the organisation and internally, developing their teams as individuals and as a collective. They used not only the CEO to deliver the coaching, but also peers and well qualified external coaches.

Is yours a real team or a pseudo-team?

Professor Michael West challenges teams to identify if they are a real team or a ‘pseudo-team’ by having them answer three questions:

  • Do you have a few clear objectives that you need to achieve as a team?
  • Do you work together to achieve these team objectives?
  • Do you meet together regularly to review progress and how it can be improved?

What sort of team is yours?


¹Wageman, R, Nunes, D A, Burruss, J A, and Hackman, J R, (2008). Senior leadership teams, Harvard Business School Press, Harvard, MA.

²Hawkins, Peter, Leadership team coaching: developing collective transformational leadership. (2nd ed.) Kogan Page, London.


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