The importance of 'complementarity' in leadership teams

What is ‘Complementarity’?

‘Complementarity’ refers to the ability of business leaders to work together effectively, based on complementary behavioural traits. A leadership team that is high in complementarity has the best chance of driving growth, working through problems and fostering a harmonious, productive atmosphere throughout the business.

As businesses are facing an increasingly changeable economic landscape, it is more important than ever that teams work cohesively, collaboratively and efficiently as they navigate these challenges


Our PACE behavioural assessment tool for business leadership teams is designed to evaluate the behaviours that have been found to be uniquely prominent in successful senior leaders.

These behaviours are:





Each of these four behaviours are ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 10 indicates that an individual ranks highly for that behaviour, whereas a score of 1 indicates that the individual does not show that behaviour, but does in fact display the positive characterisation of a low score. For example, a low PRAGMATISM score indicates that the individual is highly ANALYTICAL.

When looking at the PACE profiles of a leadership team, we look for the complementary qualities, not only within the individual but across the entire team.

A leadership team that is high in complementarity has the best chance of tackling the issues that arise in scaling a business, because of their differing but complementary approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. What one leader might lack; another will have.  

The right combination of complementary qualities could:

Remedy individuals’ shortcomings: For example, the high curiosity displayed by CEOs is complemented by the CFO’s functionalist approach; ensuring that reporting of the company’s ongoing financial activity is accurate and displays a complete picture of the business.

Provide a diversity of perspectives: For example, a highly agile Chair will look to ensure that the team does not get complacent in how the business is performing, and will look to encourage a developmental mindset in the CEO; ensuring that they are willing to learn and try out new ways of operating and problem-solving.

Increase innovation: For example, a CTO’s high curiosity could breathe new possibilities into the business, by always looking for digital solutions to issues at hand. This would complement a typical COO’s more functionalist approach. The COO will take innovative ideas and implement them, improving processes and procedures.

Reduce risk and ensure balanced decision-making: Team diversity should be encouraged to avoid ‘groupthink’ and to ensure that important matters are reflected upon in their entirety. For example, the Chief Sales Officer, CFO and COO leaders could be looking to execute a plan as soon as possible, but that could be balanced with the CTO’s, CEO’s and Chair’s views on working together to achieve the business’ goal in the most effective and efficient way.

The Theory of Complementarity

Our Theory of Complementarity takes into account these two considerations (complementary qualities & working well together) in tandem, in an attempt to systematically propose the most impactful and effective combination of behavioural profiles for a team.  

This insight, combined with our experience and expertise of our market, allows Rowan to bolster leadership teams balancing the right PACE characteristics for a particular business to complement existing team members and each other. In the current climate, effective teams are more important then ever, as businesses look to maximise efficiencies to further drive growth.

For example, Rowan recently worked with a B2B business to implement effective succession planning. The Leadership Dynamics platform allowed us to assess and optimise numerous stakeholders, and suggest the ideal new leadership structure – including potential new hires – for maximum complementarity and value creation potential. Look out for the case study on this for more detail.

We also understand that it is possible for a high-performing business leader with the right PACE profile for his or her current team to be the wrong fit for a different team. Our analysis and insight of the senior leadership team allows us to mitigate the risk of the wrong hire, and find the strongest match available in the market for a particular business and leadership team.

When we partner with our clients to build out a senior leadership team, we do it with complementarity in mind, and use our proprietary ‘Leadership Dynamics’ solutions suite to bring us the unique, data-driven insights that are inaccessible to our peers.

Through Leadership Dynamics, we have the ability to analyse leadership teams at arm’s length, with a high degree of accuracy.

This allows the assessment of a team without raising any alarms, whilst providing an objective basis from which to make decisions regarding a team and its individuals. This can be used in combination with PACE or on its own, as both provide an insight into the suitability of individuals to ensuring complementarity and the needs of a particular business.

If you are interested in finding out more about our theory of complementarity, and our associated ‘Leadership Dynamics’ services, contact Gina Raymond