As a leader, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tactical details of running your organization. We all have felt the pressure of customer and business demands and the sands of time slipping out of our hands. In today’s busy working environment, it is easy for weeks and months to go by where we feel like we are just keeping our heads above water.
For a moment, I want you to think of a ship floating on the water. Imagine a “Pirates of the Caribbean” wooden ship – we all can envision it – majestic handiwork, cannon ports, and canvas sails flapping in the breeze. Now imagine that ship at sea without a rudder, a map, or competent sailors. It doesn’t look like such a rosy opportunity for travel, does it? It’s probably going to wander aimlessly, wasting time and resources instead of accomplishing the goal of the voyage.
Leading strategically can focus and align the crew, provide the map, identify a timeline for sailing, address the missing rudder and prepare the crew with skills and training to accomplish the goal that will ultimately allow them to fulfill the vision.
So, what is the “Art” of leading strategically? It is recognizing and applying our creative and authentic leadership styles and talents to a strategic thinking and planning process that has common factors but may require situation-specific action. Let’s explore this further. To step back and drive results with a strategic focus, leaders need to ensure the following core factors are in place:
- Vision: Where are you going to be in 3-5 years? Develop a clear and compelling vision for your organization. Paint the picture for our team and other stakeholders with specifics and tell a story that inspires and engages everyone. This will help you set the direction for your team and ensure that everyone is working towards a common outcome.
- Goals: Build and share specific and measurable goals in reasonable timeframes that are aligned with your vision. This will help you remain focused, track progress (or lack thereof) and ensure that everyone is working with urgency and purpose on their objectives.
- Resources: Allocate resources (for example: people, time, and money) creatively and judiciously to achieve your goals. This means prioritizing initiatives that will have the greatest impact on achieving your vision, while still being true to your vision, mission, values, and culture.
- Accountability: Everyone on the team has to be rowing in the same direction and consistently hitting their goals – it isn’t just the leaders in the organization that have to muscle the company to success. Holding everyone on the team accountable for these results, including yourself as a leader, is a non-negotiable part of strategic leadership.
- Risk Management: Identify and mitigate risks that could derail your strategic initiatives. This means planning for potential challenges and having contingency plans in place.
Throughout all five elements, regular and effective communication about the plan, the progress, barriers and pivots is essential to motivating and energizing your stakeholders as you sail toward your vision!
Strategic leaders possess certain traits such as being creative, thoughtful, visionary, focused, collaborative, and decisive. Building strategic initiatives involves leadership actions such as anticipating and identifying key opportunities and having the risk tolerance to take advantage of those opportunities. Executing strategic plans is a complex and often a long-term play to accomplish the mission and having strategic thinkers at all levels of the organization will be essential to success. A leader has to be tenacious and influential to inspire those that help prioritize and execute on those initiatives, develop action plans, align the team and culture, and monitor progress.
Leading with strategy has many benefits. By having a long-term vision, you can set clear goals and objectives for your organization that create a sense of purpose, direction and stability for your team. Careful messaging on the strategy means that each team member can better understand their role, the impact of their role on the performance and success of the business, and how their decisions and efforts align with others in the organization to achieve that vision. Strategic leadership can promote innovation and creativity, as it encourages the team to always look for ways to improve and grow their organization. Finally, research shows us that strategic leadership is correlated with stronger financial performance, intentional culture development, and even increased employee retention.
In the Dame Leadership Academy, we identify core factors that allow leaders to drive results using strategic focus. We identify traits of a strategic leader, how and why you need to build strategic initiatives, and tactics to communicate and implement the importance of operating with strategy vs. reactive “firefighting.”
Contact us to see if the Dame Leadership Academy is a fit for your organization.