Seven steps towards becoming a strategic leader

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Let’s be a strategic leader

Leadership can be a daunting prospect for first-time leaders.  Strategic leadership even more so.  Many of the first-time leaders that I have had the pleasure of working with have been stuck in the urgent, the operational elements of their business.  It has been my job to help them move towards a more effective, more strategic style of leadership, focusing more on the longer-term important activities rather than the short term, urgent activities. 

There are seven generic functions of strategic leadership.

  1. Providing direction
    1. Knowing where the organisation needs to be going.  The three signposts are:
      1. Purpose – why or for what end does the organisation exist
      1. Vision – what ought the business look like in three to five years’ time.
      1. Values – the moral compass. 
  2. Getting the strategy right
    1. Strategy is the route to the longer-term goals for your business; it is concerned with what is important as opposed to what is urgent.  The focus is on where the organisation is aiming.  Strategy here involves both strategic thinking and strategic direction. 
  3. Making it happen
    1. The operation function of strategic leadership, which includes getting out of the office to observe what is happening, monitoring progress and reviewing performance against agreed targets. 
  4. Organising and reorganising
    1. Ensuring that the relation of the whole to the parts of the organisation is optimum for the task at hand.  Put simply everything is continually be monitored to ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency.  If not at a maximum, then a change is required.
  5. Adding the fizz
    1. Being a cheerleader for your individuals.  Encouraging and motivating people at every level.  The symptom of success here is high morale at every level in every team.
  6. Relating the organisation to other organisations and the society
    1. Finding allies or partners among other companies and creating a spirit of cooperative teamwork with them, if possible.  Promoting external relations between the business and the local, regional and national communities and specific those within your industries.
  7. Choosing today’s and developing tomorrow’s leaders
    1. Selecting the best operational and team leaders is a critically important activity.  The strategic leader will develop and own a strategic plan for improving leadership capability throughout the organisation.  Remember, just because someone is very good at the job that they do it may not mean that they will be a good leader.

The product of successful leadership is a high performing team and its possibly one of the hardest elements to get right for most first-time leaders.  Most first-time leaders have not had experience in delegation, managing people, providing direction – the list goes on.  The evidence of your effectiveness as a leader lies in the quality of the team that you have built around you and your ability to maintain and lead that team by example.

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