collective leadership

How to Increase Collective Leadership & Create a Competitive Advantage

Most organizations focus on developing individual leaders, ignoring the collective effectiveness (how leaders show up together to lead the organization) of the leadership system—all leaders and managers in formal leadership positions. Within this structure of formal leadership, we focus on the top four levels, or the Extended Leadership Team (ELT). The ELT is responsible for providing leadership to the entire organization.

Collective leadership effectiveness is impacted by how well the ELT sets direction; aligns around vision and mission; agrees on direction, key strategies, and initiatives; develops a clear shared understanding of strategy; translates strategy into execution; understands each other’s roles; collaborates together; makes decisions; creates an accountable, engaged, performance-based culture; focuses on achieving results; mobilizes and engages all stakeholders to achieve those results; and develops leadership that can do all the above.

How effectively collective leadership is deployed differentiates organizations that perform optimally from those that do not. No organization can perform at a level higher than the collective effectiveness of its leadership.

No organization can perform at a level higher than the collective effectiveness of its leadership.

Individual effectiveness is necessary, but insufficient, for extraordinary business performance. Individual leadership effectiveness catalyzes collective effectiveness. Collective leadership effectiveness drives organizational performance. Collective effectiveness and the success leaders have as a team result from the way they interact with each other—the quality of their communication, the level of alignment on vision/direction, the level of agreement on key strategies, the degree of trust and honesty, and how well they execute together. The quality of the leadership conversation largely determines the level of collective leadership effectiveness.

Leadership Is a Conversation

Leaders spend most of their days in conversation—meetings, phone calls, emails, and strategic communications. How you show up in these conversations determines your level of effectiveness. How we show up together in these conversations drives our collective effectiveness. The quality of our collective conversation largely determines our collective leadership effectiveness and business performance.

We usually dumb down when we come together, meaning that the collective intelligence and performance of most leadership teams is well below the average intelligence and performance of the members. The dynamics played out in most groups—overly aggressive advocacy of positions, poor listening, reactive responsiveness, political caution, ambitious self-interest, mistrust, withholding of opinions—subvert collective effectiveness. Collectively intelligent leadership teams consistently achieve breakthroughs—high-leverage actions, innovations or changes that make them super-competitive.

High scores on Leadership Effectiveness correlate closely to positive outcomes such as strong bottom-line performance, employee job satisfaction, high employee engagement, and low turnover. As a leader, you will not scale the organization unless leadership is collectively effective and until you invest in developing high-potential leaders. This is what we call the Leadership Agenda. It is a business imperative.

Ask Yourself These Questions (and Answer Honestly)

We invite you to ask yourself six provocative questions:

  • Is your leadership team comprised of extraordinary performers with LQ scores well above one?
  • Are your key leaders functioning at or beyond the 80th percentile?
  • How effective is your personal and collective leadership? How do you know?
  • How does your leadership effectiveness compare to that of your competition?
  • Are you tracking the effectiveness of leadership over time to gauge improvement?
  • Is your leadership a competitive advantage or disadvantage?

If you do not know the answers to these questions, you probably are not serious enough about the effectiveness of leadership. You are likely not making the Leadership Agenda a key strategic priority.


Excerpted from Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results, by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Wiley, 2015)



Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

Bob Anderson and Bill Adams

Bob Anderson is the founder and Chairman of The Leadership Circle and co-founder and Chairman of the Full Circle Group. Throughout his career, Bob has worked with various CEOs and their leadership teams to assist them in improving the effectiveness of their leadership skills. Bob and his wife, Kim, live in Toledo, Ohio. Bill Adams is the co-founder and CEO of the Full Circle Group, and also serves as CEO for The Leadership Circle. Bill and his wife, Cindy, live in Utah, where they enjoy spending time with their four children.

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    email: connect@switch&
    1133 Ferreto Parkway
    Dayton, NV 89403

    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us

    Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.