DierkeHouben Insights

This is How you master the Top Team Paradox

What prevents Senior Executive Teams to reach their full collaboration potential? It`s the Double Top Team Paradox.

The strengths that lift an executive to the top ranks often turn into weaknesses in the top team. This is the first paradox. The individual strengths of top executives do not necessarily add up to collective strength. Particularly in highly complex and dynamic situations, alpha executives tend to develop dysfunctional behaviour patterns that are borne of excessive strengths.

Thus, we face an Alpha Male Syndrome at the top: Dominance and confidence can turn into overruling behaviour, the drive for performance bubbles over into placing excessive demands on others, analytic strength mutates into a tunnel-perspective, and decisiveness is replaced by actionism. Buddhists call these weaknesses the “near enemies” of those strengths, they are rooted in. No doubt, high performing alphas reaching the top level are not prone to productive collaboration in a team context.

And, yet, alphas need other alphas as a corrective force in order to successfully perform as a team – that defines the double paradox. Alphas compete and need each other for team success. Through reflective dialogue at eye-level, managers in the top team create a joint awareness about their mental models, their pre-dispositions, judgements and their productive or unproductive behaviours in the team. Only the regular practice of joint autopsies without blame and a constructive scepticism in reflecting individual and team behaviour patterns, can pave the way for alphas to overcome the Top Team Paradox. Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership scholars at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, call this reflective practice “moving from dance floor to balcony”, a technique to step back and gain an observer’s perspective that is imperative for each top team.

Boost the Conscious Leader inside you: To be a game changer at the top you have to be aware of the Top Team Paradox. If you want to read more about coping with the Double Top Team Paradox and breaking unproductive routines, click below to connect to our Insights: “Top Team Paradox: How to get beyond the alpha syndrome at the top”.


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