Complementary Leadership


This year I engaged a fitness coach to assist with my strength program for the first time. One of the values I learned from this, is education about how our body works. The complexity of the human muscular system is mind-boggling. It is fascinating how each muscle group works together with the “core” to achieve strength, balance, and endurance.

It is the same way with teams. I had the pleasure of spending two days with our IT leadership team this week during our quarterly meeting. This is the third time we have started it with a reflective discussion. We call this section #Perspectives. This week’s topic was Complementary Leadership

We shared our leadership strengths and development opportunities (others called it needs). We became aware of our diversity; from our upbringing, experience, domain expertise, and leadership capabilities. We gave examples of where we rely on other strengths:

  • How leaders who are great in coordination help facilitate and co-lead initiatives between teams
  • How new leaders rely on the veterans for institutional knowledge and a breadth and depth of relationships across the business
  • How we learn from new leaders who are technical thought leaders; bringing new and emerging skills that don’t exist across

Our conclusion: We have diversity in leadership, and there’s nothing we need that we don’t have in this team and our extended team and network. With this conclusion, we challenged ourselves to deliberately empower our leadership compass to expand multi-dimensionally: 

  1. Up: find mentors and role models
  2. Down: mentor others, give back, and help the next one in line
  3. Out: find leader partners to support and complement your needs as well
  4. Within: improve leadership self-awareness, discover our strengths, and needs

Much like the muscular system of the human body, developing the core allows different muscle groups to work in harmony to achieve the best performance. If you do it the wrong way, you can risk injuries that can set you back. Fitness training is an intentional program. With our reflection on complementary leadership, we want to make that team leadership development purposeful to benefit the whole. “Complementary leadership is the intentional partnership between one leader and one or more leader partners to share leadership responsibilities based on complementary skill sets.”1

1– Use Complementary Leadership to Develop Future Ready IT Leaders – Gartner March 2020

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