Although most companies typically refer to their executive “leadership team,” more often than not it is a “team” in name only. Based upon our experience and research, we believe that a “true team” (in the sociological sense of a cohesive team) performing a set of defined leadership functions is required to promote sustainable organizational success. We term this special type of team a “leadership molecule.”
A leadership molecule is comprised of two of more leaders who function as a team and effectively perform five key “strategic leadership functions”:
- Creating, communicating, and effectively managing the company’s Vision that defines what the organization will be working to achieve over the next 3 to 5 years. The individual(s) responsible for this function are focused on ensuring that the company develops and effectively implements its Strategic Plan.
- Defining, communicating, managing, and reinforcing the organization’s Culture. The individual(s) responsible for this function are focused on ensuring that the company’s values, beliefs, and norms are well-defined and that there are processes in place to help employees understand, embrace, and behave in ways consistent with the company’s desired culture.
- Overseeing the development of key Operational and Management Systems. The individual(s) responsible for this function are focused on designing, implementing, and continually monitoring the effectiveness of the systems needed to support effective and efficient current operations and promote continued successful company development.
- Coordinating and managing Operations. The focus of the individual(s) performing this function is on supporting the implementation of new systems and on effectively managing day-to-day operations so that they are aligned with and promote the achievement of the company’s long-term goals.
- Leading Innovation and Change. The individual(s) responsible for this function are focused upon helping employees embrace the need for change and innovation and on planning for and managing key organizational change.
To maximize success, a member of the executive team needs to “own” each of these five functions and all functions need to be brought together in the team so that each supports all others to create the Leadership Molecule as shown below:
The Leadership Molecule Framework
Our pioneering empirical research on the leadership molecule hypothesis (using data from a study of entrepreneurial leaders of rapidly growing companies in China) provides empirical support for the proposed construct of the leadership molecule and indicates that there is a statistically significant relationship between the existence of such a molecule and the extent to which an organization can manage growth successfully (Flamholtz, 2011).
The Management Systems framework for the Leadership Molecule is further explained in some of our books and articles including Leading Strategic Change and Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset.