Leading through teamwork: 4 lessons on creating an effective top team

Author: Alain Bejjani — CEO, Majid Al Futtaim — Holding

What makes a successful CEO? In my view, the answer is not as simple as we might think. How much of our success is truly our own, and how many outside influences affect our company’s results? According to McKinsey & Company, more than half of the elements that define a company’s financial success — such as earlier R&D investments, geographic GDP growth and industry trends — lie outside a CEO’s control. That means that about 45% of what drives performance falls directly within a CEO’s scope.

Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company interviewed 67 elite CEOs from different industries and geographies to help develop ‘CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets that Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest’. I was fortunate enough to be included among them, and want to share some of my input here, mainly focusing on the power of teamwork and fostering a world-class leadership team.

1. Include your employees when setting your vision Allowing your executive staff to speak freely and fostering a strong feeling of ownership can result in incredible outcomes. When defining your company’s vision or strategy, include a diverse range of roles instead of limiting yourself to senior executives. In addition to expanding ownership, we’ve found some of the most insightful responses come from fellow MAFers we might not typically consult.

2. Give struggling leaders a chance to step up Leaders will struggle from time to time — this is normal. Those times allow us to exercise fairness and patience. The conventional opinion among CEOs is that you should move faster on people, but I believe this is myopic. You cannot force people to change, but you can build an atmosphere that facilitates people’s learning and adapting to the extent that they are able (or willing) to do so.

3. Leverage the power of a team Some of the most influential CEOs incorporate available time into their calendars. I establish a stretch goal for the amount of unbooked time. My dream at Majid Al Futtaim has always been to have 70% of my time free, so I can think, reflect, and be able to deal with critical matters as they arise. I find that a successful CEO is one who can become almost superfluous. If the great majority of tasks can be completed at the highest standards without your presence, then you have created the necessary strength, intelligence, and muscles for your organisation to succeed.

4. It’s not about you — you are only an “officer” Lastly, as a CEO, it is easy to fall into a trap and believe that you are the best thing that happened to the company. In actuality, the opposite is often true. It is essential never to get lost in these grandiose views but keep things in perspective. At the end of the day, you are the chief executive “officer,” and the “officer” in your position means you are only an employee — just like everybody else. The fact that you are the one sitting in the chair is actually a privilege that must be earned daily. Your choice of people and creating an effective top team is what helps you earn it.

In my view, it is teamwork that makes a successful CEO. And the reward for building and developing collaborative top teams is crystal clear — they produce superior strategies, perform more consistently, and boost stakeholder confidence. In Majid Al Futtaim’s case, they create more Great Moments for everyone while enhancing the work environment.

I’m thankful to the McKinsey team for creating this master-class in CEO excellence and allowing us a front-row seat at conversations with some of the most successful business leaders of our age, including the heads of JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Netflix, Sony and Nestlé. I highly recommend this manual for excellence to anyone looking to excel in leadership, and look forward to sharing more from it with you.

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