McKinsey Quarterly recently ran an article that focused on how top management teams can improve themselves. The same criteria hold true in schools, I think.
1. Get the right people on the team...and the wrong ones off. More than 1/3 of the CEOs that McKinsey surveyed noted that their top teams did not have the right people with the right capabilities. Although we have senior leadership teams in schools, some of which may not have the right people, we also employ many teams in schools--and that is where we too often find the situation of wrong people on the team. Too often, certain folks are placed on a team because their actual title or perceived "rank" within the pecking order (of faculty, for example) seems to imply that they should be team members. Perhaps we could afford to follow that direction pre-2008, but now, when every little move matters greatly, I would argue that we cannot afford to follow past performance.
2. Make sure the top team does only the work just it can do. In other words, in schools, teams need to establish firm boundaries of where their purview lies and where it doesn't. That's tremendously difficult in independent schools because it's easy for us to convince ourselves that everything matters...and therefore should somehow relate to our team's purview. The result is that team meetings lose their energy and focus, and team members' engagement level diminishes, as does productivity of the team. Figure out what your team can and cannot do, and adhere to it!
3. Address team dynamics and processes. How much of a team's time is actually spent in "productive collaboration"? Why is that the case? Typically, the source of the problem is a lack of alignment in either the area of process or interpersonal dynamics. The cure is a form of cultural change within the team, if the feeling of the team leader is that the members could benefit from learning why they are disagreeing and determining a way to channel that disagreement into a productive discussion, ending with a result. Additionally, for warring factions, the team leader must address them immediately, rather than permit them to fester. The latter approach will serve only to render the team more impotent, and therefore, fragile. This kind of work is very demanding of the leader, in both time and personal energy.