Teams at the Top: Unleashing the Potential of Both Teams and Individual Leaders

By Jon Katzenbach | 1998

Why is it that we often see less team performance at the top of organizations than we see elsewhere? Despite the label “teams,” top leaders tend to avoid teaming and the real progress is made behind closed doors, not at the team meetings, writes Jon Katzenbach in Teams at the Top (Harvard Business School Press, 1998).

After writing The Wisdom of Teams (1998), Katzenbach discovered there are special dynamics that characterize leadership groups at the top. Many times so-called teams are really working groups with a single leader – and often, these non-team groups at the top work pretty well.

The solution does not lie in mandating teams or in changing top leaders’ styles, or even in designing a better top team structure; rather, the key is in clearly differentiating between team and non-team opportunities and developing the capability to shift into different leadership modes, different leadership roles, and appropriate team membership composition depending upon the desired results. High-performing organizations require a balanced leadership effort that fully exploits non-team as well as team approaches.