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How Professional Women Can Create Championship Teams

As executive women look to build a championship team they must guard against feeling threatened by strong leadership below and alongside. The best women business leaders embrace strong leadership personalities because they help get things done, do the right thing, respect everyone and question the status quo, so the organization can get better.

There are few feelings in the world as gratifying as celebrating a championship with teammates whom together you developed, persevered, broke through barriers, overcame obstacles and achieved the ultimate goal for which all were striving. The path to becoming a championship team in athletics is a life-transforming journey. Additionally, it is important to understand that there are many championship teams that due to luck, circumstances, the bounce of a ball, or an inch or two, fall short of the ultimate goal. This doesn’t make them less of a championship team.

Develop Strong Leadership at the Top and Throughout

The genesis of a championship caliber team begins at the top. In professional sports it begins with the ownership and front office. In college athletics it begins with the offices of the president and athletic director and for Olympic teams it begins with that sports’ governing body.

The top of any organization sets strategy while providing necessary resources and support. Without quality leadership at the top setting strategy, directing tactics and making adjustments based on feedback from the level of results achieved, the team will crumble under a weak foundation.

Championship teams have a strong leadership structure with formal and informal leaders at every level throughout. The head coach has assistant coaches. The assistant coaches overseeing individual components of the teams have captains, when team captains can’t be on the field of play informal leadership steps up.

As Pat Summit, head coach of the University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball team and the most successful coach in women’s collegiate basketball history wrote in her book, "Reach for the Summit," "Our leaders are our floor coaches, they are the players I am most dependent on … I can’t wear a uniform and go out there on the floor with them, so I need them to be an extension of me."

Try as they might, executive women in leadership roles can’t be everywhere either. Therefore, their focus needs to be on developing leaders and communicating with them so that they can act as an extension, as Summit suggests. Without formal and informal leadership throughout, an organization will crumble like a house of cards under an air conditioning vent.

Caveat lector - retention is going to be a challenge. Other organizations will look to recruit quality leaders. This means the leadership development program in place is working, embrace it, confident it is providing systemic succession planning.

Here’s one final note for professional women committed to developing themselves as leaders and in developing leaders around them. In looking for potential future leaders too many people focus on a skill set instead of personality characteristics and attitudes. Remember, skills can be taught if the right attitude is present. Therefore, in this area I coach my clients to focus on the "3C’s" of strong leaders – Courage, Congruency and Compassion."

Congruency may be the most important leadership trait of all. A lack of congruency, or a "walk the talk" approach, has the potential to immediately sabotage a leader’s respect and authority. "Doing as I say and not as I do," fails as a leadership strategy. Congruency is paramount in a leader at all levels. To create and lead a championship team, evaluate your own level of congruency and begin demanding it from others whom you view as future leaders of your organization.

Check back for more articles on team leadership, written originally for by Skip Weisman,