Leadership Teams Need Balance

In my recent post on what it takes to be a great young leader, I made the case, that a really important leadership skill is the ability to pick a leadership team that supports the leader in her weakest areas and lets the leader use her strengths to drive results and create lasting change. In this post, I will touch on the importance of balance in a leadership team.

Basically, I see two general types of leaders – hunters and farmers. Hunters often focus on short-term results – the next contract, this week, this month or this quarter. They are always looking to bag the next big deal. Farmers, on the other hand, tend to focus less on single deals and believe in the value of cultivating long-term relationships. Hunters are often visionary and like to be aggressive and take charge of things. Farmers, on the other hand, are often more laid back and like to let things develop. Hunters are often competitive, enjoy the spotlight and like working alone. Farmers, on the other hand, prefer to be part of a team and prefer to share responsibility and accomplishments.

My point is not that one type is better than the other. On the contrary, I believe all good leadership teams need a bit of both. If a team has the right balance and trust in each other, their differences will lead to healthy discussions leading to better decisions. If a leadership team consists of only farmers or only hunters, it will lack the needed balance and they risk ending-up confirming each other without exploring valuable alternative options.

Unfortunately, people are often attracted to people who mirror themselves. Hunters prefer to work with hunters and often get restless when farmers start talking about the long hall or about being careful about chasing the newest trend. Farmers, on the other hand, think hunters as reckless cowboys who are willing to sell their mother for the next kick. Conflicts like these put a big responsibility on the leader of the teams’ shoulders if they are to be healthy conflicts. If the leader is e.g. a hunter herself, she will need to work on her patience and try to keep an open mind towards the farmers in the group. She will also need to keep an open mind in the hiring of new leaders and be aware of what balance is necessary on the team. If a hunter only hires hunters and primarily makes and support hunter decisions, she risks isolating the farmers and they will eventually leave the team. This will make the balance even worse and require even more from the leader to bring back the needed balance.

If you are the top dog, my advise is to look at yourself and the team you are leading. Consider if you are a hunter or a farmer. Then look at the business you are in and make a genuine assessment of what balance your leadership team should have. Finally look at your current team and find a way to get the balance right. If the balance is off, make a plan to change it and pay extra attention to the minority types until the balance is restored.

Image credit: Unsplash.com


  • Jesper Thomsen

    November 26, 2012 at 08:45

    Very good point.. And a point you can easily extend it to e.g. project teams, as well… You need a good and balanced team to maximise your pace and effectivity – a huge benefit is that people have more fun and thrive when this balance is acheived.


    • Martin

      November 26, 2012 at 09:23

      Hi Jesper,

      Very good point – I totally agree that the same can be said for project teams or any other aspect of life involving teams for that matter. The reason I focus on executive teams is because the impact of an unbalanced executive team is so much bigger than that of a single unbalance project team. I also think the likelihood of having an unbalance project team that the executive team doesn’t do anything to balance is low, if the executive team is balanced. But who fixes an unbalanced executive team?


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