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The Real Leadership Challenge?

Views on leadership challenges

There are numerous views regarding the great challenges facing leaders, especially in the post-Covid world. 

The Center for Creative Leadership (2021) maintains that the following six challenges are common to leaders all over the world, at all levels and in all organisations. They are: honing effectiveness, inspiring others, developing employees, leading a team, guiding change and managing stakeholders.

The Forbes Business Council (2022) identify a further five challenges that leaders face.  They are: changing business trends and hypercompetition, keeping up with digital technologies, the new era of employee engagement, developing and retaining talent and  workplace flexibility expectations

The important question?

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The above views offer useful and interesting perspectives on leadership challenges. However, they offer nothing fundamentally new or profound and are basically a blinding flash of the obvious in our current environment. They do not offer significant breakthroughs that will guide our future thinking and leadership perspectives.  

I believe the important question is along the lines of “What are the critical few leadership challenges that will profoundly change the way we think and act about leadership in the future?”

The real leadership challenge

The world has become too complex, competitive and fast changing for single leaders to deliver corporate success. Organisations will in future need dynamic, agile and collaborative teams with the ability to adapt to uncertainty. 

The fundamental challenge for leaders is to recognise and embrace the reality that high performance, value-creating teams will lead future organisation success and not individuals. As Kets De Vries wrote as far back as 2011, “In our global highly complex world, the heroic leadership figure has increasingly become a relic”.  

Ground-breaking research (iTeachArt 2022 et al) on failed and unicorn start-ups indicate that unicorns are largely team led and focused, while start-up failures were frequently  individually led.   

Implications of team organisational leadership?

 The message is clear that successful organisations of the future will increasingly be led by high performance value-creating teams and less by individuals. What are the implications of this? We urgently need to establish the nature of these teams and how we develop them. 

Enter ‘value creating’ teams

A conventional understanding of ‘team’ is offered by Katzenbach (1993) when he defined a team as ..“A small number of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and shared approach for which they hold each other mutually accountable.” 

Peter Hawkins (2021) added a number of profound additions and insights into how we see teams today and introduces the concept of value-creating teams which he defines as follows .. “A high value creating team: meets and communicates in a way that raises morale and alignment, partners with all the team’s key stakeholder groups to co-create beneficial value for all players and provides constant learning and development for all its members and the collective team”   

This offers us a far more comprehensive, accurate and insightful definition of what teams are really about in the current context. The concepts of engaging fully with all stakeholders, mutual accountability to create value for all stakeholders, focusing on how they operate and ongoing learning have largely been absent in traditional definitions. 

Value-creating teams are about enhancing the way they relate to and serve their business environment. This means placing as much emphasis on how they lead change with their stakeholders as how as how function internally.

Welcome to ’leadership team coaching’

So how do we develop ‘value creating’ leadership teams? The Global Team Coaching Institute (GTCI) is among the world leaders in terms of developing value-creating and high performance teams.  They have researched and formulated powerful, conceptually rich and highly effective models to develop value creating teams and simply refer to the process as ‘team coaching’

Prof David Clutterbuck (2020), Co-dean GTCI, defines team coaching as “Helping the team improve performance, and the processes by which performance is achieved, through reflection and dialogue”


Prof Peter Hawkins (2021)’ also Co-dean of GTCI,  offers an insightful and comprehensive definition of systemic team coaching as follows “A  process by which a team coach works with a whole team, both when they are together and when they are apart, in order to help them improve both their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business.’”


So how is team coaching different from other forms of coaching and team building? 

  • It adopts a strong systemic and process approach

  • It focuses on collective team leadership 

  • It engages all the team’s stakeholder groups – not just the team

  • It concentrates not only on the team’s performance, but on transforming the wider business

  • It works with the team, both when they are together and apart

  • It has a major focus on ongoing learning through deep reflection and dialogue.


In summary, Hawkins (2021) indicates that team coaching is about helping teams step back from day-to-day doing to provide clarity about what is happening in the systems that affect performance in both the short and long term.  This clarity leads to better decisions and to rapid action when part of the system isn’t working properly. It’s about being pre-emptive rather than just proactive.


Leading the transition


Transition from the current state of primarily individual leadership to the essential future state of team leadership through team coaching will undoubtedly take time, courage,  learning and fundamental change.  However, time is the luxury that we can ill afford as the world changes around us at lightning speed!

Ron McLuckie

Founder & Managing Partner – New Futures

Master Action Learning & Leadership Team Coach. 

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