The Best Way To Align Leaders: Disagree, Debate, Repeat

The Best Way To Align Leaders: Disagree, Debate, Repeat 480 360 C-Suite Network

By David Michels

When Uber announced in mid-June that it would organize a 14-person governing body to run the company while its CEO had a time-out, critics immediately pounced on the idea. How on earth could you run a fast-charging tech company with such an unwieldy group? How would all those leaders align?

The critics may turn out to be right about running a company with so many cooks in the kitchen. But they are wrong about leadership alignment. Leadership alignment is a popular topic in management these days: An aligned leadership team — the conventional wisdom holds — transmits a clear message of where the organization is heading and unlocks productivity by getting everyone rowing in the same direction. These assumptions, however, belie common myths about what leadership alignment looks like and how it can help an organization be more successful.

Myth #1: Alignment means everyone agrees with each other. Doesn’t it feel better when everyone agrees and just gets along? Sure, it does, but it doesn’t mean you’ve gotten to the best answer, and it certainly doesn’t mean you are really aligned.

I was working recently with a senior team that wanted to raise the level of “alignment” in the global executive committee, because they thought that would make the top team more effective. I observed the first meeting, which went quite smoothly. Afterward, one of the members asked me — with an unmistakable note of pride — how I thought the meeting had gone. “So Dave, what do you think now,” he asked. “Are we an aligned leadership team?” My answer disappointed him. “I have no idea,” I responded. “I didn’t observe any kind of debate with differing opinions or learn anything about how you would resolve differences. All I observed were pleasantries handed around the table — I have no idea what’s lurking underneath the table.”

The hallmark of a truly aligned leadership team is…