Playing in the Park & the Future of Leadership

Playing in the Park & the Future of Leadership

Imagine you walk into a park that you have never been to before. You see lots of people, people you do not know. As you look to the far end of the park, your eyes light up. You walk to this corner of the park and you see a group of strangers, playing basketball. One of the teams is a player short and you ask if you can join the game. Within a few moments, you and the others are playing together, each making contributions, moving the ball (and the game) up and down the court and everyone is having a good time. All with a group of complete strangers.

How is this possible?

You can join the team, play, and contribute with people you had never met because you and the others understand how to play the game of basketball. What a wonderful gift and feeling, to be able to step into any culture, in any city, with any group of complete strangers and play with them.

Imagine now that instead of basketball, the game is running the leadership team. What would it mean, if you could step into any leadership team, and things “just worked”, because everyone knew how to play the game? This would allow the team to “move the ball” up and down the court, focus on competitive challenges, serve clients, and develop talent. Think how motivating it would be for others to see the leadership team work together in a highly collaborative and unified way, speaking with one voice, and leading the organization boldly into the future.

Yet as we leave our basketball metaphor and return to reality, we know that many leaders do not step into the leadership team and find their place. Most leadership teams do not have and certainly cannot explain the set of rules by which they play. This means leadership teams struggle and do not play at their best. When a basketball team suffers, they suffer alone, unless you count their fan base. When a leadership team struggles, the entire organization struggles. This often means low employee engagement, confusion, and frustration. This translates into poor strategy implementation, little readiness for change and an unclear organizational culture.

Organizations continue to pour money ($360 billion annually) into education, training and development. There have never been more opportunities (executive coaching, business schools, leadership models & diagnostics) for leaders to get the support they need. Yet it seems to be not enough. Only one out of five executives believe they are part of a high-performance leadership team. Seven out of ten leaders do not feel they get any real value from the leadership team they are a part of. Something is missing.

It’s called Executive Ownershift®.

Executive ownershift is a systematic growth process designed for the unique needs of executive and strategic leadership teams. It is a top down, team approach to learning that improves leadership performance and organizational results. It is attractive and useful because it enables teams to address specific issues that prevent them from playing at their best. As teams reshape themselves, they can turn their attention to strategic growth opportunities and creating a culture of ownership across their business. After all, isn’t this the aspiration and expectation of all senior leadership teams?

Over the past 15 years, I have advised and coached over 150 leadership teams on three continents. Through these deep team experiences, I have collected a clear set of best and broken practices used by leadership teams from a variety of industries. Executive ownershift showcases these experiences, helping leadership teams focus on what must go right and what can go wrong on their journey to high performance.

Executive ownershift is the result of careful study and disciplined practice in the six areas that benchmark highly effective leadership teams. These benchmark areas include 1) building resilient relationships, 2) clarifying purposeful team practices, 3) creating a results-oriented framework, 4) making meetings matter, 5) crafting a senseful strategy and 6) creating an ownership culture throughout the organization.

It is mind boggling when one thinks about the multitude of options available in the field of leadership development. Yet very few leadership teams get the specific help they need and deserve to “get their game right”. If the leadership team cannot get their game right, how can the rest of the organization? In many leadership teams, there is so much untapped potential, unused collaborative power, and non-aligned future vision that it is no wonder that only one in five executives think they are part of a high-performance team.

How do you know if executive ownershift is right for your organization? Ask yourself three questions:

  • How important are leadership teams to the success of our business?
  • How many of our leadership teams are highly effective?
  • What is our approach to developing highly effective leadership teams across our organization?

High performance leadership teams are everything to the success of your business. For this to become a reality, leadership team development must become the example for the rule, not the exception. (90% of executive and strategic leadership teams today do not have a systemic process for continuous improvement for themselves.)

The past belonged to the heroic solo leader. Times have changed. Even now, during the Covid 19 pandemic, we see regions and organizations faring better than others. This is surely due, in part to a unified, collective leadership response. No one man or woman alone can manage the wicked problems of today. The future of leadership must meet and manage the demanding challenges of tomorrow. Tomorrow belongs to leadership teams, who play collaboratively and believe that leadership means we before me. This is a tough team to compete against, in the business world, or on any basketball court in the park.

This blog appeared as an article for HR Tech Outlook in July, 2020.


Image by Leo Acadia @ theispot


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.