Posted on November 21, 2016 @ 10:00am

So you’ve made it to the C-Suite.  You now have the title Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer or one of the other “Chief” titles beneath your name on your door.  You've joined a select group that typically have corner offices, significant salaries and a great deal of positional power. 

Assuming you’ve been properly selected for your position, you have a deep competency in the area for which you’ve been hired.  You understand the world of Information Technology or the game of Legal.  What you may not understand is what it means to be a Senior Leader in your organization.  Typically it is ill-defined and if you were honest with yourself, you’d admit that you are less “trained” for that part of your job than for the one you are "officially" responsible for on the organizational chart.

You are not alone.   Turns out, most Senior Leaders -- and most Senior Leadership teams -- share this lack of clarity...and this lack of competency.  This collective lack of clarity has, by default, each C-Suite leader playing a silo game.   “I’ll worry about my piece and you worry about yours.”  This “channel management” approach, coupled with unclear expectations of the collective responsibility of the Senior Leadership team,results in a myriad of organizational speed bumps including:

- a haphazard culture
- varying performance expectations
- gaps and gaffs in communication
- frustrated and un-empowered direct reports 
- low employee engagement
- missed business opportunities
- faulty and often costly, execution   

This channel management approach has people in the organization shaking their heads and questioning their marching orders.     

For all of the talk of Leadership, in our experience, there are very few Senior Leadership teams that understand their role as a collective Leadership force.  They underestimate the need by the organization to have them lead as a team and they under estimate their influence.  Most have a nagging sense that they could be doing more, should be doing more, but don’t follow through on that feeling because there is not a clearly defined road map.

If you are part of a C-Suite team where there lives a possibility to answer the leadership call of your organization beyond individual positions, read on – you will find a place to begin.   However, if you are part of a C-Suite team where the overall nature of the group is dog-eat-dog -- stop reading this now.  None of what is left to be said in this article pertains to you. 

Get intentional.  
Everything starts with a decision.  Decide that you want to pursue becoming a separate entity --  a 'collective leadership force'.  Put the topic on your next  Senior Leadership Team meeting agenda and discuss the potential for your collective impact.  What could it look like?  Does the idea of operating in alignment excite you?   

Define what it means to be a Senior Leader.
What are your additional leadership responsibilities as a member of the leadership team?  Start by asking, "What does the organization need from us?" Create a job description for your team.  Once you’ve identified the responsibilities, clarify what they look like in terms of  everyday behavior.  Then be sure your team is measured against the standards. 

Make Visible Changes. 
Crowd-Source from the organization their opinions regarding where the Senior Team is falling short and correct those deficiencies.  To create positive organizational ripples, publicize your commitment and publicize positive changes. 

Be Willing to Be More.
Understand that as a Senior Leader, it is no longer about you.  What got you here - the narrow focus on your area of expertise isn’t only what is needed from you now.  Since you have such a high level of influence, the organization can benefit tremendously from your stewardship.  You've got leverage.  Understand that as a Senior Leader, primary to your job is communication -- both listening and speaking.  If you are an introvert, continuously communicating may take more than you’ve ever had to offer.  If you are an extrovert, who is more interested in what you have to say than in what others have to say, you’ll need to re-invent yourself.   Being more starts with a high degree of self-awareness. 

Get Help.
Personal transformation is a journey.  Collective transformation as a team is a journey.  It’s easy to revert back to silos.  It’s easy to stop being what the organization needs you to be.  Designate or hire someone, who without fear, can point you in the right direction while holding you to your commitment.

World-class organizations become world-class because they understand how to leverage and maximize the collective influence of the C-Suite.  The first question to be asked is, is that what you are up to?  


© 2012 DillonMarcus, Executive Retreats