What is Leadership Alignment and Why Does it Matter?
Written by
Mike McKenzie
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What is Leadership Alignment and Why Does it Matter?

Leadership Alignment is becoming recognised as the cornerstone of long-term organisational success. But what do we mean by Leadership Alignment, why is it so important, and how do you improve this in your leadership team?

In this article, I will

  • Define Leadership Alignment and explain the difference between alignment and consensus.
  • Explore the key benefits of an aligned leadership team.
  • Share the tell-tale signs of a poorly aligned leadership team and its impact outside the boardroom.
  • Explain how to improve Leadership Alignment in your organisation.
  • Describe a simple way to get started by assessing how well-aligned you are as a leadership team.

What is Leadership Alignment?

It is worth drawing on a few insights from some prominent business authors to answer this question from a practical (rather than academic) perspective.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team 1

Patrick Lencioni’s fable emphasises the critical role of Leadership Alignment in fostering cohesive teams. The story underlines the importance of creating a shared understanding of goals, values, and expectations among the members of the leadership team. 

Lencioni highlights the importance of clear communication and mutual understanding among leaders. He also describes how Leadership Alignment lays the groundwork for effective teamwork and collective achievement.

Good to Great 2

Jim Collins emphasises that visionary companies focus not only on their grand vision but also on the meticulous alignment of their people, processes, and strategies. He identifies alignment as a defining characteristic of truly exceptional organisations and explains that this involves instilling a unified sense of purpose and ideology across the organisation.

The Advantage 3

Patrick Lencioni introduces us to the concept of organisational health and stresses the importance of “Discipline 1: Building a cohesive leadership team.” He explains that the leadership team of a healthy organisation must be intellectually aligned with and committed to the same answers to six critical questions about the organisation. These questions include,

  • Why do we exist? 
  • How do we behave? 
  • How will we succeed?

He describes an aligned leadership team as one that puts the collective priorities and needs of the organisation ahead of their departments.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done 4

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan suggest that effective execution requires clear communication and alignment throughout the organisation. They describe a culture where everyone understands the strategic goals and works in harmony to accomplish them.

Leading Change 5

John Kotter emphasises the importance of aligning leaders around a shared vision that directs, aligns, and inspires action among a large number of people. He suggests that successful transformation requires active support from the organisation’s head. However, a powerful guiding coalition, composed of committed leaders with influence, is also essential. These leaders work together as a team to drive change.

From Lencioni's emphasis on shared understanding to Kotter's advocacy for unity amidst change, these insights help us define Leadership Alignment as follows.

Leadership Alignment is a measure of how well a leadership team

  • Adopts a shared Vision and a common set of Values.
  • Embraces “healthy conflict” to inform prioritisation and enhance decision-making.
  • Fully commits to the actions and changes required to achieve the Mission.
  • Promotes cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Presents a united front to the rest of the organisation.

Six Key Benefits of Leadership Alignment

Achieving real alignment, where strategy, goals, and meaningful purpose reinforce one another, gives an organization a major advantage because it has a clearer sense of what to do at any given time, and it can trust people to move in the right direction. The result is an organization that can focus less on deciding what to do - and more on simply doing.”

Thierry Nautin, The Aligned Organization 6

By improving Leadership Alignment within their organisations, business leaders unlock a wide range of benefits that will improve their chances of sustained success.

1. Increased Clarity and Direction

When leaders are aligned, they collectively establish a clear direction for the organisation. This alignment ensures that everyone comprehends and works towards the same goals, promoting unity and focus. 

By setting a consistent strategic vision, leaders provide clarity and eliminate confusion. This cohesion at the top of the organisation fosters a sense of purpose, engagement, and productivity throughout the entire workforce.

This helps employees make decisions that support the overall mission. 

2. Enhanced Decision-Making

Leadership Alignment is crucial for effective decision-making.

When leaders are aligned, they can quickly gather insights, share perspectives, and make informed decisions that drive the organisation forward. They can swiftly evaluate and address challenges or opportunities without wasting time or energy on internal conflicts or contradictory agendas.

This enables faster decision-making, reduces bottlenecks, and ensures that decisions are made in the best interest of the organisation. 

3. Resource Optimisation

When leaders understand and align with the organisational mission and strategic plan, the organisation operates more efficiently and achieves more effective outcomes. This alignment ensures that all efforts and resources are directed towards achieving the company's overarching goals and objectives. 

Each member understands their role and how it contributes to the whole. This clarity enables efficient resource allocation and drives organisational success.

"When leaders are aligned, it encourages a culture of collaboration and openness, fostering innovation and enabling organizations to adapt quickly to market changes."

Katzenbach & Khan 7

4. Enhanced Collaboration & Innovation

Leadership Alignment promotes cross-functional cooperation, knowledge sharing, and innovation. By fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, leaders can harness the collective intelligence of their teams, resulting in more creative problem-solving and the generation of fresh ideas. 

This collaborative culture fuels innovation and gives organisations a competitive edge in today's dynamic markets.

5. Improved Organisational Resilience

‍In an ever-changing business landscape, adaptability and resilience are crucial for survival. Leadership Alignment builds the foundation for a resilient organisation, capable of withstanding the storms of change and emerging stronger from adversity. It enables organisations to respond effectively to market shifts, technological advancements, and unforeseen challenges. 

‍Aligned leaders can quickly mobilize resources, reallocate priorities, and make strategic adjustments, ensuring the organisation remains agile and resilient in the face of disruption. This ability to navigate uncertainty and change positions the organisation for long-term success.

6. Improved Financial Performance

The advantages mentioned above combine to create a powerful driving force for the company. These benefits lead to improved financial performance, which is the ultimate goal of any business leader.

“When leadership teams have a shared, meaningful, and engaging vision, the company is nearly two times more likely to achieve above-median financial performance.” 

McKinsey & Company 8

By boosting productivity and efficiency, the company can reduce costs and increase revenue, resulting in improved profits. Additionally, having a more engaged workforce can lead to higher customer satisfaction, which can attract new customers and increase customer loyalty. All these factors combine to create a positive cycle of growth and success for the company.

The Tell-tale Signs of a Misaligned Leadership Team.

“When organizations fail to meet objectives and achieve goals, it is often a simple matter of misalignment - especially on strategic priorities.” 

Brent Gleeson, Forbes 9

Over the last 25 years, I have participated in or observed countless leadership team meetings. It is often painfully evident that there is a significant lack of alignment.  Here are some tell-tale signs:

1. Slow or no Decision-Making

When decision-making drags on, it often betrays a lack of clarity and agreement on priorities and strategies. This confusion and discord among the Leadership Team causes frustration and hampers progress.

2. Limited Debate and Conflict Avoidance

Open and honest discussion is vital for refining ideas and strategies, yet it's a rarity in teams lacking alignment. Without robust discussions, opportunities to challenge and enhance initial concepts are missed, leading to subpar outcomes. While avoiding conflict might seem like a useful peacekeeping tactic, it often papers over the deeper issues that need resolution. Failure to address this hinders progress and perpetuates discord within the team.

3. Poor Strategic Planning 

A lack of executive team alignment leads to bad habits when it comes to Strategic Planning.  The process becomes little more than an annual charade. As a result, the Annual Plan is ill-informed and contains a one-dimensional set of “same as last year plus x%” sales numbers. This wishful thinking is then translated into a budget and bland organisational goals.

3. Missed Deadlines and Low Accountability

Consistently missing deadlines is a clear indicator of a leadership team in disarray. It reflects a disconnect between agreed-upon objectives and actual execution, undermining the team's credibility and effectiveness. Low accountability betrays a lack of commitment to shared goals or confusion regarding roles and responsibilities. This fosters a culture of blame-shifting and undermines team performance.

4. Personal or Departmental Agendas

When individual team members prioritise their own agendas over collective objectives, it creates division and friction. This hinders progress and impedes the team's ability to achieve its goals.

The Ripple Effect of Poor Alignment

"There is probably no greater frustration for employees than having to constantly navigate the politics and confusion caused by leaders who are misaligned.”

Patrick Lencioni 10

When leadership team members lack strategic alignment and direction, the repercussions ripple throughout the entire organisation, affecting both performance and culture. These are seven common symptoms of a poorly aligned leadership team.

How many do you recognise in your organisation?

1. Siloed Efforts. Departments work at cross-purposes and employees find themselves working at odds with one another. Initiatives stall due to conflicting directions from above and colleagues routinely undermine each other's efforts instead of moving together towards shared organisational goals.

2. Workplace Politics. Political manoeuvring often pitches one team member against another and one department against another. This creates a toxic environment that distracts from the organisation's objectives and can lead to distrust and disunity.

3. Resource Misuse and Infighting. Expert or scarce resources are fought over and often squandered. This damages relationships and puts the Mission at risk.

4. Confusion and Cynicism. A lack of a clear direction trickles down to front-line employees. This leads to confusion and frustration rather than clarity and purpose. Change management suffers as new initiatives are met with cynicism.

5. Underperformance.  When the wider organisation feels disconnected from the leadership's vision, employee engagement drops, as does productivity. Failing to meet performance targets or achieve expected outcomes becomes the norm.

6. High Employee Turnover. A lack of connection to the company's goals reduces morale and job satisfaction. This ultimately drives away top talent.

7. Lack of Innovation. Without cross-departmental collaboration and the efficient use of resources, it's almost impossible to generate and progress the new ideas that drive long-term success.

Fake Alignment in Leadership Teams

“Leadership teams are often misaligned on strategy, even though they don’t seem to be on the surface. The problem is that in team meetings, people tend to publicly agree with the company’s direction (particularly if the boss is present). But when it comes time to allocate resources to a new agreed-upon strategy the seeming agreement turns into active resistance. Few are willing to spare the needed resources.” 

Scott D. Anthony and Bernard C. Kümmerli, HBR 11

I’ve often come across leadership teams where, at first glance, alignment does not appear to be an issue. But often this is just an illusion, and the leader is unaware that one of two things is happening.


Board Meetings are full of smiles and backslapping as decisions are discussed in brief and quickly approved. However, a few hours later, once the meeting is over, the real discussions ensue.

Some senior leaders take the issue back to their departments and whinge about it to their deputies. Small factions meet to discuss why the decision is flawed and the resulting actions are pointless. Political alliances are formed across departments to frustrate the progress that the leadership team has just committed to.

This isn’t the ‘healthy conflict’ that Lencioni recommends, it’s guerrilla warfare!

Passive Alignment

In these instances, the impassioned debate never takes place at all. Instead, the leadership team engage in superficial discussions where dissenting opinions or alternative viewpoints aren’t voiced. I often see this in smaller businesses or those with recently formed leadership teams. Passive alignment happens for one or more of the reasons below:

  • Team members feel unable to influence any decisions. Maybe the leader's personality is too strong, or their leadership style is too dominating. As a result, participants don't feel encouraged to speak up and share their opinions.
  • They don’t feel the issue at hand is relevant to them. They are unclear of the wider purpose of the leadership team and see their role in the meeting solely as a representative/defender of their department.
  • They are genuinely disinterested. They’re passive because they don’t really want to be in the room! These individuals might be great at performing their functional roles but they’re not leaders. They simply want to do their day job and work ‘in the business” not “on the business”.

Complacency is a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to Leadership Alignment. So, if your organisation’s results don’t match the rhetoric in your leadership team meetings, then make sure that you aren’t falling into one of these two traps!


Improving Leadership Alignment: 9 Practical Tips

“Leadership team alignment is important, but it is more elusive than one might think. Chances are that unless you have had a good disagreement - and found ways to resolve different views in a productive way - you are not truly aligned.”

Davids Michels, Bain &Co 12

As we can see, getting everyone in your leadership team ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ is key to driving success in your organisation. Here are some practical tips for how to build alignment in your leadership team.

1. Clarify Purpose and Goals: Before you start on the journey to improved team alignment, discuss and agree on the purpose of the leadership team. Have an open discussion to review and, if necessary, redevelop a shared vision. 

Alignment begins with a clear understanding of why your team exists.

2. Commit to open and honest communication:  Create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions. Improve debates and decisions by encouraging active listening, healthy debate, and constructive feedback. 

When everyone has a voice and feels listened to, alignment naturally improves.

3. Embrace your differences: Recognise that your team members are more than just colleagues; they're individuals with unique experiences and perspectives. Value this diversity and understand each person's motivations, aspirations, and concerns.

When everyone feels respected, alignment naturally follows.

4. Build a common language: When individuals come from diverse backgrounds, the same words can have different meanings and can lead to confusion or fear of embarrassment. (Goals/Objectives, Vision/ Mission, Values/Culture, Strategy/Tactics, Growth Objectives/Rocks etc). Get ahead of this and build a vocabulary that works for the whole team.

A common language fosters a sense of belonging and shared identity.

5. Encourage Collaboration Over Competition: While a bit of healthy competition can be motivating, collaboration is where the real magic happens. foster and reward teamwork across different departments to break down silos.

Remove barriers and build bridges: When teams work and achieve together, alignment improves.

6. Create a Safe Space: Fear can stifle alignment. Foster an environment where team members feel safe taking controlled risks, admitting mistakes and fears, and sharing their thoughts and ideas. Trust is essential for alignment to flourish. 

Encourage a culture of trust, experimentation, and learning.

7. Align Around Core Values: Identify your organisation’s Core Values and ensure they resonate with your team. Discuss these values openly and explore how they influence decision-making.

When everyone shares the same values, conflicts become easier to resolve.

8. Lead by Example: As the leader, set the tone for alignment. Be vulnerable and demonstrate your commitment to shared goals, transparency, and collaboration through your actions.

When your actions align with your words, others will follow.

9. Regularly reaffirm the organisation's Vision, Mission and Values:  These should remain well-connected to your strategy especially when the leadership team is responding to unforeseen internal and external shifts. This reduces the risk of implementing strategies that run counter to your organisation’s purpose. When they are at odds, Leadership Team Alignment will eventually suffer.

Navigate as a team. Course corrections are essential, but they should always steer you toward your shared destination.

By implementing these strategies, you'll build a strong leadership team that will unlock your organisation's full growth potential and vastly improve your chances of success.

Maintaining Leadership Alignment

“Being aligned is not binary; it is fluid and it is fleeting. As issues and business conditions change, the level of alignment can rise or fall and teams can fall out of alignment. Too often, leadership teams declare success on their journey toward alignment, only to find a few weeks or months later that there are cracks in the unified front. Left unattended, these cracks turn into major fissures in the organization.”

Davids Michels, Bain & Co 13

It is worth reinforcing that Leadership Alignment is not a one-time achievement; Maintaining alignment is an ongoing task that requires vigilance, open communication, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

This is why it pays to check in regularly. Take the pulse of your team. Ask them how they perceive the levels of alignment and use their insights to fine-tune your approach and address any concerns. 

Investing in this Keystone Habit can help with leadership development and the creation of a high-performance culture. When this happens, the leadership team works together towards a common goal, providing clarity, conviction, and a sense of purpose throughout the organisation.

Like all new habits, it might take some practice before it becomes second nature, but, over time, it will change the way you and your team think, speak and act and dramatically improve your chances of success.


Getting Started: Measuring Leadership Alignment

"When an organization’s leaders are cohesive, when they are unambiguously aligned around a common set of answers to a few critical questions…they create an environment in which success is almost impossible to prevent.”

Patrick Lencioni 14


For quite some time, assessing Leadership Alignment has been the domain of large organisations. They could afford the luxury of engaging high-end consultants, investing in detailed research studies, and committing to intensive alignment programs.

Quarterli® offers a straightforward approach to measuring and enhancing Leadership Alignment in organisations of any size, from major corporations to small businesses. Importantly, Quarterli® enables you, the business owner, Managing Director, or CEO, to lead this effort independently, without the need for costly external support.

How it Works

Quarterli® uses the Growth Probability Matrix™ as the basis for an online survey. Each senior leader is invited to reflect on 13 Growth Probability Indicators (GPIs). Their responses are analysed to rate your organisation's chances of success and how well-aligned you are as a leadership team. See a sample report here.

Quarterli® provides an opportunity to recognise where there is a clear consensus amongst the team. More importantly, it highlights where there are divergent views that need to be listened to and understood.

Actionable Insights

Unique algorithms generate Leadership Team Alignment Scores and GPI Ratings that deliver clear, actionable insights. So, if you're not on the same page, you’ll see where and why and have a common frame of reference to be able to address it.

Healthy conflict should be encouraged in any Leadership Alignment Workshop. Respectful and open discussions can lead to richer insights, enhanced creativity and better solutions. In this context, conflict can become a valuable tool for innovation and growth rather than a source of tension or disruption.

A Common Language

It's not a formal benchmarking tool, but it brings structure, focus and a common language. It encourages an open and honest discussion about your business's chances of success and what you, as the leadership team, can do to improve it. By delving into the findings, you can work together to identify areas of strength, pinpoint what is holding you back and then commit, as a team, to do something about it.

Rinse and Repeat

When the time is right, repeat the Quarterli® Growth Probability Survey. This introduces a simple routine that gently surfaces different views and helps you re-assess how well-aligned you are as a leadership team. It helps build and maintain a shared view of where the business stands and what needs to change.

The Quarterli® Leadership Alignment Tool introduces a new ‘keystone habit’ for your organisation that improves alignment and develops each member of your leadership team. Ultimately this leads to better strategy development and more effective execution and decision-making.

Summing Up

In this article, I have defined Leadership Alignment and described how it provides an enduring competitive advantage that will drive performance, profitability, innovation, and growth in your organisation.

I’ve described the tell-tale signs of a misaligned leadership team and how the ripple effects of this misalignment impact the whole organisation. I’ve also highlighted the problem of fake alignment and how this is an illusion that can invisibly undermine everyone’s efforts.

Finally, I’ve explained how you can assess and improve alignment in your leadership team. I’ve then underlined the importance of developing a routine that ensures that this alignment can be maintained.


1. What is Leadership Alignment?

Leadership Alignment refers to the process where a leadership team adopts a shared vision and common set of values, embraces healthy conflict for better decision-making, commits to the necessary actions to achieve the mission, promotes cross-departmental collaboration, and presents a united front to the organisation.

2. Why is Leadership Alignment important?

Leadership Alignment is crucial because it ensures that leaders are working towards the same goals, which increases clarity and direction, enhances decision-making, optimises resources, improves collaboration and innovation, boosts organisational resilience, and leads to better financial performance.

3. What are the signs of a misaligned leadership team?

Signs of a misaligned leadership team include slow decision-making, limited debate and conflict avoidance, poor strategic planning, missed deadlines, low accountability, personal or departmental agendas, and a lack of open communication.

4. How can you improve Leadership Alignment in your organisation?

To improve Leadership Alignment, clarify the purpose and goals, commit to open and honest communication, embrace team member differences, build a common language, encourage collaboration over competition, create a safe space, align around core values, lead by example, and regularly reaffirm the organisation's vision, mission, and values.

5. What are the benefits of a well-aligned leadership team?

A well-aligned leadership team can achieve increased clarity and direction, enhanced decision-making, efficient resource utilisation, improved collaboration and innovation, better organisational resilience, and superior financial performance. This alignment leads to a more engaged workforce and a stronger organisational culture.

6. What is an effective first-step to improve Leadership Alignment in my organisation?

Quarterli® provides a simple way to measure and improve Leadership Alignment in any organisation big or small. Importantly, it allows you, the business owner, Managing Director, or CEO, to lead this process in your business, without the need for expensive external support.


[1] Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. New York: Harper Business.

[3] Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[4] Bossidy, L., & Charan, R. (2002). Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York: Crown Business.

[5] Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

[6] Nautin, T. (2014) The Aligned Organization. McKinsey & Company.

[7] Katzenbach, J. R., & Khan, Z. (2010). Leading outside the lines: How to mobilize the informal organization, energize your team, and get better results. Jossey-Bass.

[8] Bergeron, N., De Smet, A., & Meijknecht, L. (2020) Improve your leadership team’s effectiveness through key behaviors. McKinsey & Company.

[9} Gleeson, Brent. "The 6 Pillars of Leadership and Team Alignment." Forbes, 21 August 2023.

[10] Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Jossey-Bass. (p. 75)

[11] Anthony, Scott D., and Bernard C. Kümmerli. "A Simple Way to Get Your Leadership Team Aligned on Strategy." Harvard Business Review, January 2019.

[12] David Michels, "The Best Way to Align Leaders: Disagree, Debate, Repeat," Bain & Company, December 15, 2017.

[13] Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Jossey-Bass. (p. 16)

Quarterli® is designed to keep things simple so that you can lead this process in your organisation without the need for expensive external support. This makes it both affordable and sustainable. 

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How will using Quarterli® help us as a leadership team.
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