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Is team harmony really the key to performance? Or do C-suites need to balance cohesion and conflict?

There’s a common myth that effective teams always need to work in perfect harmony. But while support and collaboration are important, the most successful C-suites embrace their differences to build creative dissonance—a culture of honestly challenging each other that drives innovation.

In top-performing C-suites, the CEO sets a strategy and vision and inspires their CxOs to deliver them. The whole C-suite pulls in a single direction, and it’s this cohesion that gives rise to the myth of constant harmony.

Conflict is Normal. And Valuable.

But in reality, every executive team is a mosaic of diverse personalities. Each leader has their own style, behaviors, and expertise, as well as their own goals and priorities. And that creates friction.

The difference between the top-performing C-suites and others is that they don’t avoid this friction, they embrace it. They have the security of knowing they’re all working towards the same goal, so can engage in vigorous debate and disagreement to drive results.

C-suite Leaders Must Flex Their Approach

Of course, such conflict isn’t always appropriate. So, high-caliber C-suites know when to challenge and when to knit together.

It takes a special kind of leader to be able to flex their approach like this. You need to know when to disrupt the status quo and when to toe the line. When to take risks and when to be pragmatic. When to be heroic and when to be vulnerable.

This ability to adapt is one of the key things we look for when assessing a leader’s C-suite potential. Ultimately, flexing your leadership style for the situation differentiates a good CxO from a great one, particularly in a complex and changing world.

So, instead of striving for absolute harmony with your C-suite colleagues, strive for creative dissonance. Don’t shy away from conflict—harnesses it for performance.

The article was first published here.

Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash.

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