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Creating High Performing Executive Teams

Creating High Performing Executive Teams

26 April 2024

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Local governments are complex and diverse organisations. Leaders need to navigate a dynamic political and regulatory landscape whilst balancing the divergent needs of the communities they serve. Whilst the Chief Executive or General Manager is ultimately responsible for steering the ship, they will need to create a high performing executive team to drive performance across the council.

With a substantial track record in executive recruitment specific to the sector, Leading Roles has a strong view on the core facets that make up a high functioning local government executive team.

Shared Leadership

A team that works well recognises that everyone brings their unique skills and perspectives to the table. Each member takes the lead in their area of expertise, empowering others and fostering a sense of collective ownership.The team promotes divergence in skills and viewpoints but converges in its objectives.

By establishing a culture of collaboration, encouraging initiative and holding members to account, executive teams can collectively drive their own teams and the organisation to achieve their goals.

Anchored by Common Values

Common values serve as the foundation upon which a high-performing executive team can build trust, cohesion, and alignment. Values define an organisation’s culture, setting the norms, beliefs and attitudes that matter, guiding how work is performed and what takes priority. The executive leadership team must not only ascribe to these values, but they must be intrinsic to each person’s behaviour and decision-making.

Where values are misaligned at the executive level, it is likely to lead to competition for resources, conflict, distrust, and a win-lose mentality. Team members promote their own agendas above the needs of the organisation. Every executive team should be anchored by values that are truly representative of the council’s purpose and mission.


Accountability and Focus on Results

High performing teams require leaders who take ownership for their responsibilities and hold themselves to account for their actions and decisions. Without this performance will slip. Lack of accountability leads to project delays, low quality work, duplication of efforts, inefficiencies and decreased morale and motivation.

Communication is Key

It goes without saying that transparent, respectful and honest communication is vital at the executive table, yet in many organisations there is a breakdown in communication creating a ‘them and us’ mentality.

To tackle this, all leaders need to work towards setting clear expectations as well as clear lines of authority and accountability. Effective communication channels can promote open dialogue and active listening. Where possible promoting a ‘no blame’ culture will enable team members to show vulnerability and discuss solutions more collaboratively. Team members should feel comfortable expressing their opinions, concerns and views, be respectful with their peers and handle conflict constructively.


Performance Metrics for Decision-Making

Leadership teams that utilise performance data to drive collective decision-making are likely to be more successful in achieving their goals. Data-driven teams adapt well to changing needs, can anticipate and mitigate risks and capitalise on new opportunities.

This changes conversations at the executive table away from intuition and assumptions, providing greater insight to how the organisation is progressing towards its goals.


Investing in Development and Collaboration

Finally, as with any team, ongoing investment in development is crucial. Whether this requires a rigorous assessment of leadership capability and skills and an action plan to address gaps, or simply a recognition that the team needs more dedicated time for free-ranging discussion, creativity and problem solving.


Whilst local government executive leaders may have an area of expertise, they must be generalists to have a true cross-organisational perspective. One way to achieve this is by rotating leadership roles, enabling team members to gain experience in different areas and build empathy for others.

Through a mindset of continuous improvement, the executive team recognises continued areas for growth and development.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of high-performance factors. Each council executive team will differ in their areas for focus and development. What’s critical for all council teams though, is recognising the important role they play in setting the standards across the organisation.


At Leading Roles, we have assisted in recruiting more than 300 executives and have witnessed a strong correlation between high-functioning, collaborative executive teams and the cultivation of a robust, inclusive culture that prioritises and celebrates exceptional performance. We firmly believe that such an environment fosters the advancement of local government organisations, resulting in vibrant communities and flourishing local economies.