A new leader should avoid conflicts when building the team
In many ways, the position of president of the United States is similar to that of a chief executive and, just like any CEO of a corporation, the new president should choose the team with great care. Now that the American election is behind us and the U.S. government is making the transition to the Trump team, there has been a lot of attention about perceived conflicts involving the incoming administration.
Make no mistake, any conflict of interest will dilute contributions even by those people who may be experienced and talented.
For any executive leader, there will always be challenges when forming a team. There will also be pitfalls to avoid. I have seen these pitfalls too many times. It all comes down to transparency, independence and clear lines of command.
It is a recipe for disaster when board members are friends and family of the CEO. Such people tend to get too cozy and accommodating to the person in charge and to senior management. What happens is you have a situation where vested interests collide. Think of Seinfeld’s George and his attempt to keep his relationships on the straight and narrow. He called it “colliding worlds.”
Indeed, colliding worlds on the senior management team are guaranteed to lead to problems. So here are a few basic rules for the new leader to take home. 1) Make sure team members have no conflict of interest that could blur their vision and influence their judgment, which is why it’s best not to include family members and friends. They can be ad- visers, but not part of the team. Also, they should not receive compensation. 2) Look for those who possess the right qualifications, not necessarily those who are loyal. While it’s human nature to go along with people you know and trust, let’s not forget history is full of inept, incompetent people who were loyal to the chief. 3) If you are taking over an existing team, evaluate the existing members both as individual players and as team members and rank them according to three categories: keepers; question marks; need to be replaced.
You want to knit together team members who complement each other and who stand united. The new leader may not be familiar with these people or their records, which is why it’s good to seek the advice of knowledgeable, independent advisers in deciding who will be on the team. 4) The leader must evaluate character and talent, but character is more important. Reputation is what you do when everybody’s watching, but character is what you do when no one is watching. While team members will help you achieve objectives for the organization, you, as head of the team, are responsible for their performance and behaviour. Senior team members can always surround themselves with talent, but if team members lack character or integrity, all the talent in the world won’t help. Just look at what happened to Enron or to Richard Nixon’s administration.