Delicate Dilemmas

Delicate Dilemmas

“Does the CEO want me to run my business function, or be a member of the executive team?”

This question was raised recently in an executive coaching session, loaded with a great deal of emotion. Can you see the dilemma?

Senior leaders face this dilemma, and all too often it remains an unspoken tension or dilemma that does not surface in executive teams, which diminishes leadership team performance and undermines organizational results.

There are four reasons leaders favor their functional role over that of the executive team role:

  • Most of their professional life is spent in a particular function and it has become a part of them. It is also where the majority, if not all, of their performance targets are, and how leaders are rewarded.
  • There is no compelling executive team purpose that dissolves the dilemma leaders have with their specific function.
  • The senior team collectively has not clarified what it does and what it doesn’t do.
  • Members do not experience the work in the senior leader team as important as their individual leadership functional work.

Here are four questions to make this delicate dilemma more transparent, enabling leaderships teams to constructively address and dissolve it:

-How well and how often do we put issues on the table that may have negative implications for one’s own function, even though it could be good for the overall business?

-To what degree do we keep leadership team discussions confidential until agreed upon that the content and results can be shared with the rest of the organization?

-What does our decision-implementation scorecard look like – do we carry through on decisions agreed upon by the team?

-Do we have standards in place and hold each other accountable for agreed upon behaviors that are consistent with our team standards?

Bill Russell, the American basketball icon, who won 18 basketball championships in his 21 years of playing (including 11 NBA championships in 13 years) said this, “Winning is the ultimate form of athletic expression. To win regularly, I learned to subordinate my individual goals so my team would be able to win. As a result, I become the kind of leader who understood that doing the most for my team would best guarantee success.”

How do you and your executive colleagues address and manage this delicate dilemma that prevents so many leadership teams from playing at their best?


Image by Alamy W4H00H

Contact Information

Dan Norenberg
Wensauerplatz 11
81245 Munich
Phone: +49 172 862 5123

About Dan Norenberg

Dan Norenberg improves leadership performance and organization results through Executive Ownershift®, his transformational growth process for executive teams. As a trusted advisor, consultant and professional speaker, Dan’s mission is to enable executive teams and their organizations to play at their best.