Over my career I often had to reorganize or assemble management when taking on a new assignment. I was recently asked what attributes I looked for as I built those teams. A successful team obviously needs the right skills to succeed. But beyond that, a team must have the common values and chemistry to allow them to function at the highest level. As I reflected on the question, I concluded my list was instinctive as I developed my skills and style along the way. I did not have a prepared checklist to mark the appropriate boxes, especially when dealing with urgent situations that needed new leadership. Nevertheless, every leader should consider his/her list of “must have” attributes. Others’ lists may well differ from mine, but, on reflection, the most important attributes that came to mind are  

  • INTEGRITY
  • INTELLECT
  • COMMON FOCUS
  • NON-CONFRONTATIONAL

These are very personal preferences based on my experiences and management style. To explain a bit more –

INTEGRITY. I consider this to be the single most important attribute of every organization. An organization’s leaders are the role models for their organizations and must set the standards. Equally important, those ethics and standards must be communicated throughout the organization. Unfortunately, we have headlines every week of companies who compromise or ignore ethical standards. Lack of integrity or ethics is like a cancer on the organization that will eat away at its values and, ultimately, on its performance.

INTELLECT.  I welcomed bright people into my organization – often smarter than me. They could be a challenge to manage, but a dynamic organization thrives on ideas and capable leaders. They did not have to be the most skilled at their job, but had to have the “grey matter” to grow, learn, and contribute. Bright, challenged, and focused leaders will take organizations to higher performance levels.

COMMON FOCUS. At the senior level, I insisted that we agree upon common goals and were supportive of each other to attain those goals and the resulting organizational success. Unstated, but equally important (and sometimes more difficult) was the process of building agreement by our team about what represented success. Again, the organization takes its cues from its leaders. By finding common ground, we demonstrated the correct behavior model to our people. It also reinforced an important philosophy that our competition was external and not within the organization.  

NON- CONFRONTATIONAL. This is a highly personal attribute that I came to recognize as I developed my management style. Some leaders or managers thrive in a world of confrontation and tension. I did not and found it distracted me from my focus on issues and success.  I avoided combative or confrontational personalities when assembling teams.

It also is important to understand, when moving into a new or difficult situation, that wholesale replacement of the team is usually not practical or desirable. Continuity and stability should be important ingredients of a successful organization. Give careful consideration to including existing managers that may be looking for better leadership and have the other attributes that would fit into your management team.

My “must have” attributes were based on my real-world experiences and the evolution of a management style. Every manager should consider the “must-have” attributes of his or her team. There is no single answer. Mine evolved by working for and learning from managers who had widely varying styles, but who were successful.

As the manager of your steam, first define your style, then select members who share you values, and you will be taking your first steps to organizational success.