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Leadership Ensembles

Global companies today are increasingly led by an ensemble of top leaders who bridge a host of differences and demonstrate unique approaches to making decisions and solving business problems.

Orchestrating the Global Company

As global business leaders seek to oversee and manage their large complex organizations, the paradigm for effective leadership is changing. Companies can no longer rely on single individuals at the top to handle the complexity and uncertainty of the global environment. At the same time, even a team at the top is not always best suited to address each and every situation. What’s needed instead is an agile, future-focused and intelligent “leadership ensemble” at the top. This report explains what leadership ensembles are, what makes them necessary, and the attributes that make them most successful.


“By ensemble we mean: Executives, each with a distinctive expertise or perspective, who can be drawn together in combinations suited to specific decision situations or business contingencies and who, because they share common understandings and a common discipline, can be reconfigured without significant loss in effectiveness.”

Source: Leadership Ensembles: Orchestrating the Global Company

Keys to Developing the Next Generation

There’s tension at the top of today’s global companies. On the one hand, any group of senior leaders must be diverse enough to understand the complexity of markets and operations from different enlightened viewpoints. On the other hand, they must be perfectly synchronized in order to get things done – not always easy when perspectives are varied. To overcome this contradiction, executives have told us that leaders at the top need to act more like an ensemble, a group that can collectively join together in a variety of perfectly calibrated ways: different people at the table, different behaviors and different ways of thinking depending on the issue. If ensembles are the wave of the future, to what extent are Human Resources leaders preparing for this new era? To find out, we surveyed nearly 200 HR executives from global companies.


Turning the Key for a More Effective Operating Model

How do decisions get made at the top of global companies? Increasingly, the answer is through leadership ensembles, groups of leaders that flexibly configure themselves according to the type of decision that is needed. Just as a cellist takes on different roles depending on whether he or she is playing with a quartet, a chamber orchestra, or a full orchestra, so too with today’s leaders.

For example, a group of leaders may need to debate a controversial change in company direction, or draw on close relationships to quickly ratify a decision, or discuss a range of possible solutions to a problem.

Each activity requires a different ensemble configuration. An important guide to effective ensemble leadership is a company’s broadly defined operating model. To lead effectively, ensembles have to understand how they fit into—and shape—an operating model.


About the Institute for High Performance

The Accenture Institute for High Performance develops and publishes practical insights into critical management issues and global economic trends. Its worldwide team of researchers connects with Accenture’s business leaders to demonstrate how organizations become and remain high performers through original, rigorous research and analysis.

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Research Team

Dr Robert J Thomas

Dr Robert J. Thomas

Former global managing director of the Accenture Institute for High Performance

Joshua Bellin

Joshua Bellin

Thought Leadership Research Fellow

Claudy Jules

Claudy Jules

Strategy Senior Principal