Leading Teams Vs Teams that Lead - IEDP
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Leading Teams Vs Teams that Lead

The three distinct territorial domains of leadership that make leaders incomplete, but teams - potentially - complete


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The power shift from 'command and control' leadership  to more democratic forms of leadership – from ‘I lead’ to ‘you decide’ – has created a different way of thinking about leadership, one that is not just another management fad, but a new leadership orthodoxy.

According to Henley Business School professor David Pendleton, this power shift which dates from the early 20th century, a time when deferential soldiers marched to war, until now, when we worry about employee engagement and try to accommodate uppity millennials, is profound. As a consequence leadership has now become, less about directing from the top, and more about creating the conditions for people and organizations to achieve successful goals.

Considering the type of leadership that can succeed in progressive democratized organizations, at a recent IEDP Meet the Expert Lunch, Pendleton presented his Primary Colours model. This model for leadership success argues that there is no such thing as the 'complete' leader. This is because leadership occupies three distinct territorial domains:

The strategic domain: which is about tomorrow and ‘future sensing’ to set long term direction for the organization.

The operational domain: which is fact based and about better organizational performance today.

The interpersonal domain: which focuses on social skills and building sustainable relationships.

Evidence shows that no individual leader, with very few rare exceptions, can be world-class across all of this territory and it is best to be great in one or two areas and work with others to deliver the whole. So companies must build teams that combine the essential leadership skills needed for each domain. Success depends on allowing the team to lead rather than on the individual who can lead the team.

Painting the three domains as three overlapping circles of primary colour, Pendleton's model reveals a series of Leadership Tasks: setting strategic direction; creating alignment; building successful relationships; team working; delivering results; and planning and organizing.


This Primary Colours image is a registered trademark of The Edgecumbe Consulting Group Ltd.

Taking the premise that individual leaders are incomplete, whereas teams can be complete, and that the best leaders are not well-rounded but that the best teams are, the primary colours model offers a valuable template. One that clarifies how to build teams that can lead, and then how to choose what aspects of an individual’s leadership capability should be the focus for his or her development.

Learn more in David Pendleton and Adrian Furnham's book: Leadership: All You Need To Know, D. Pendleton, A. Furnham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-2303-194-5

Set in the heart of the Thames Valley and conveniently located for London, Henley is one of the oldest and most respected business schools in Europe. Number 20 in the world for the combined ranking of open and custom programmes (FT 2019), it is part of an elite group of business schools to be triple-accredited for the quality and capability of faculty and output.

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