Building a Leadership Strategy Team for an Important Initiative

I do a lot of work on Grand Challenges – big, bold goals designed to change the world for the better – and they require alliances to create a unified thrust. All Grand Challenges require building a leadership strategy team – the inner circle – that will steer the initiative by working together to seize opportunities and confront challenges. The same principles can be applied to any leadership team or steering group you’re creating for a very important project.

There are two primary criteria to consider when selecting members of the leadership strategy team:

  1. Close ties – people you know well, feel comfortable with, and who could make the right decision in your absence.
  2. Demonstrable passion – people who have demonstrated they’re able to create a commitment to the initiative.

These variables don’t have to coincide.

For example, you may have someone with close ties who is passionate and eager to be involved but has no demonstrable results. Because you know the person, you’re confident in their commitment, ability to create impact, and capabilities as a leader. This person is a good candidate for the team.

On the other side of the bell curve, you might have an outlier with tremendous demonstrable passion and has achieved incredible results in the space that your Grand Challenge addresses. Yet, you don’t have a close or direct relationship, and you don’t know what they’re like as a leader. This person is also a good candidate.

The secondary criterion for consideration is what kind of people do you want to be part of the leadership strategy for your Grand Challenge? Some groups to consider are:

  • donors
  • partner organizations
  • policymakers
  • political leaders
  • religious leaders
  • thought leaders, researchers, and academics
  • industry influencers

Often, membership in a leadership strategy team is contingent on providing funding or influencing policy and people. In other words, the secondary criteria are being given priority over the primary criteria; this is a mistake. People in the leadership strategy team should have close ties with you or have demonstrated results in the initiative’s industry. There is plenty of room for other competent leaders to help with execution, or partnering, or many of the other skills required to succeed. But they do not necessarily deserve a place on your inner leadership team.

Watch the video above to learn more about forming a leadership strategy team or email me at

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