The first test of a strategic leader is the existence of a strategy. If you have to ask ‘where is the strategy?’ then you might as well ask ‘where is the leader?’
But the presence of a strategic plan doesn’t necessarily prove that there is an effective leader in place. A wordy document may not address the 3 key questions that go to the core of the company’s strategy – its performance and potential. It is only a real strategy to the extent that it does.
With a strategy in place the manager has passed the first test of the strategic leader. The next test he, or she faces relates to the nature of the plan, specifically whether it is fast or slow – measured in terms of the speed and efficiency with which the strategy is devised, implemented, adapted and so on.
A great plan is the focus of the first two tests. But there is one more variable that must be considered – the extent to which the passion and commitment of others is present. Without it the leader and the strategy are at risk of failure. So the 3rd test is the extent to which the team is fired-up by the strategy.
Test 3 is the reason why real leaders don’t just proclaim the strategy. Managers who devise strategies with board rooms and executive suites and then emerge to proclaim (or sell) them to the rest of the organization inevitably fail to gain the buy-in and commitment of others to their strategies.
All too often strategy is confused with vision and in particular the vision of a select few at the top of the organization. However, the leader’s vision is not enough. What is the point of a great vision if others don’t see (or share) it.
Strategies don’t fail for lack of vision, or ambition, rather they fail for lack of execution. Strategic leaders have a bias for action and execution. They see strategy and execution not as separate, but as inseparable.
So the question is: Does Your Leader Pass The 3 Tests?