5 Things an Executive Director Can Do To Build a Strong Leadership Team

Leadership Team

Let’s discuss the right way and the wrong way to build a Leadership Team.

A while back I coached a very smart and ambitious young woman who, for the sake of privacy, I’ll call Meg.

Meg had recently been promoted to run the communications department of a mid-sized nonprofit. She had never held a senior position like this before.

As a director, Meg was invited onto the Leadership Team. She was quickly confused and frustrated.

“What is the point of this Leadership Team?” Meg asked. “It seems like I go to more meetings and have less time to get MY work done.”

She told me the day before their weekly meetings, she’s asked if she has any agenda items. But nobody ever told her what the criteria is for a valuable agenda item.

Of the meetings themselves, Meg said, “I’ve started asking a lot of questions and the nonverbals of my ‘teammates’ seem to indicate that I am prolonging a meeting they don’t really want to be in. Sometimes the ED can’t even make the meeting. But we meet anyway and nobody knows why. Shouldn’t we be talking about something substantive and working on it together?”

To that last quote I say a big AMEN. And by the way, my young client Meg demonstrated more leadership with these questions than her clock-watching colleagues.

What Meg described to me was a group of direct reports to the Executive Director who met because that is what Executive Directors do. They have weekly meetings with their direct reports. ED’s are rushed, agendas are not thoughtfully prepared, and what you wind up with is that “OK, let’s go around the room – what’s going on with each of you?”


This happens really frequently. It’s why one of the most common services my firm provides is leadership team facilitation. In fact, we get asked some variation of the following question all the time:

My senior team does not seem to be on the same page – can you work with us?

What might this tell you? Let me not hold you in suspense.

They may not in fact be a team at all.

You earn the word team. It cannot just be bestowed unto you. My philosophy is simple: you don’t get to call yourself a team until you earn it.

So how do you earn it? And what are some practical ways an Executive Director can build an actual Leadership TEAM?Continue Reading

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