The Measure of Great Strategy
Strategic Leadership: The Key to Sustained Success
Your organization’s strategy says a lot about its leadership – the level of ambition, the clarity of focus, the mind-set of the team and the potential for growth. So the question is: ‘What does your strategy reveal about your leader?’
The question can also be asked: ‘What does your leader reveal about your strategy and most importantly it’s likelihood if success?’ The reality is the leaders of a business both directly and indirectly determine its strategy and the likelihood of its success.
Much has been written about the high failure rates and problems with the traditional approach to strategy. But it is only in recent years that the experts on strategy have pointed to the crucial role of leadership.
The latest research tells us that leadership and strategy and inexorably interconnected. In other words a great strategy is unlikely to emerge without a great leader and even if it does it is unlikely to succeed (in the absence of one). Organizations need both.
All great leaders owe at least some degree of their success to the success of their strategy. Management writers and academics scoff at the idea of the ‘superhero manager’ whose success is based on natural attributes and innate skill, irrespective of the business/industry opportunities/challenges and the strategy by which they are addressed. The message is even great leaders require a successful strategy.
So too it is that great strategies require good leaders. Increasingly it is being seen that the leader is the number one Key Success Factor of a strategy (and indeed risk when it comes to a strategy’s failure).
Strategy is not about management. It demands more – that is leadership. Indeed it could be said that strategy is a key test of the leader – the number 1 job for a leader manager.
But many managers are unaware of their role in relation of strategy (1) – they don’t see it as inimical to their success.
Furthermore research shows that most managers are not very strategic (1). It does not help that the attitudes of many managers are colored by previous bad experience with the strategic planning process and confusion about what strategy is (and should be),
But the question is:
This leads to another important success-related question:
The absence of effective leadership generally means the absence of a clear strategy. We see it every day – organizations that are driving in the fog – that is to say they are unclear about where they are going (or how they will get there). That is their strategy.
Organizations that are ‘driving in the fog’, struggle to answer these 3 questions:
We call these ‘leading questions’ – the questions that the leader helps the organization and team to answer. This goes to the core of what business gurus (2) say is the number one challenge in business:
(1) ‘The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs’, Cynthia Montgomery, 2012.
(2) Winning The Long Game, Krupp & Schumaker (2014)