The Function of a Dysfunctional Senior Leadership Team

Team Building, Workplace Insight

How does a dysfunctional senior leadership team function? This question may sound oxymoronic – but let me tell you how this works.

Dysfunction creates content for a team’s narrative, providing a context for heroic acts and an ecosystem where exclusive subgroups or individuals can claim their uniqueness and differentiation. It fosters dependency on the leader and increases the value of his/her emotional currency across the team and the organization. It also encourages centralization of power in the leader and those whom he or she favors; creating a climate of overt and covert competition with winners and losers. It sets the perfect stage for a Greek tragedy – the script full of pain, frustration, anger, disappointment and skepticism –

a script which contains protagonists, victims, and rich supporting roles. The dysfunctional dynamics of a team changes the overarching purpose of its members where they lose perspective of the goals of the organization and become wrapped up in their own play.

Dysfunction gives legitimacy to how team members structure their time and how they play out their roles.

They have meeting after meeting, conference call after conference call, and bring in outside counsel to address their poor organizational performance. They introduce experts to present the organization with lessons on how to become better leaders, how to increase an employee’s engagement, how to address employee retention, and how to improve customer satisfaction. They go off-site to discuss long term strategies, sales forecasts, financial planning, and many other issues in order to fill and structure their time while maintaining their dysfunction and proving the success of this Greek tragedy. As it keeps playing day after day, year after year, over and over again, the actors (or team members as they call themselves) lose interest, get burned out, become cynical, quit, or get fired – and new players are brought in as replacements. At times the actors switch roles, but the play is the same. The scariest part is that after you witness this play several times or actually “live it” for long time, it gets normalized or becomes a comedy much like, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This dysfunction can become embedded in the organization’s culture and a central part of its mythology – not unlike the dysfunctional family of Gods and Goddesses who all lived on Mount Olympus.