In the very beginning, your leadership team is you. Every single business starts with a person, and that person has the responsibility to dream and to do because he or she is the only one around. 

Then the business grows, you hire some staff, and in a way, your whole staff feels like your leadership team. You hire someone to help with phone calls, emails, and scheduling, and he’s your Office Manager. You hire someone to help with packaging and shipping products, and she’s your Head of Operations.

However, it is not until the business grows to 10-20 employees that the leaders truly emerge. Around this time, you’re not able to keep your head around all the details, so you bring in a few of the big guns around the office who can help you accomplish what you need. We would never call them this, but the truth is, most leadership teams at this stage primarily serve one purpose, to enable the founder/owner to get stuff done.

Change is coming

Then, as the organization continues to grow, this seems to stop working quite as well. Somewhere between 70 and 100 employees in most leaders find that things have changed. For the first time, there are new people in your office you didn’t hire, and you don’t even know their names. You can no longer maintain a personal relationship with every employee, and you start having to rely on other leaders to carry more and more of the load.

Operationally, things change during this time as well. The organization is growing increasingly complex, and fires that demand your intention are popping up faster than you can put them out. It’s an endless string of emails, never-ending phone calls, and back-to-back meetings. It’s exhausting.

After a few years of this, or even a few months, you wonder how it got to this point. You wonder why your team is dropping the ball. You may even start to wonder if you have what it takes. It is at this point that most leaders find out what it means to have to build a real leadership team.

The four types

Here are the four types of people you need on your leadership team to get your company back on track.

  1. Visionary: This is you. You need to carry the mission, culture, passion, and entrepreneurial spark for your team. You need to paint a clear picture of the horizon, stick to it, and tell everyone about it. Your title isn’t all that important, but it may help to know the Visionary is typically the Founder, Owner, CEO, or President. The critical question you answer is, “Why?”
  2. Operator: Chances are you have several Operators around already. These ruthless finishers get the job done, and you probably owe much of your success to their tireless work. You need them to help answer the question, “What?” Typical titles for an Operator are COO, Head of Operations, Chief of Staff, or VP of Sales.
  3. Processor: Processors are likely entirely new to the organization and are a critical addition if you want your business to have the capacity to scale. You tend to find Processor leaders in IT, HR, or Finance/Accounting. They are essential to answering the question, “How?”
  4. Synergist: The problem in most good teams is that Visionaries, Operators, and Processor have very different, and sometimes mutually exclusively, world views. Left to their own devices, teams like this will often devolve into chaos, at least until someone leaves. Synergists help solve this problem by answering the question “Who?” and helping the team refine and combine those world views for the best interests of the organization. The Synergist style is a learned style that can be leveraged by anyone and is the least confined to a specific role or title.

What’s your next step?

If you find yourself in a growing organization and feeling the complexity creeping in and stifling growth, you need to take a long hard look at who can help lead you through the complexity and into capacity.

I recommend that you take the leadership styles quiz by clicking here and have your team members do the same thing. The results will give you and your team a powerful, shared language, and help you see where your team is strong and where it can use some additional support.

Here’s a pro-tip, if you average out your team members’ scores, a balanced team will have a balanced score of 240 in all four categories. If you’d like to know your team scores, contact my office and send us the email address of each of your team members. We will combine all your scores into one report for you.