Not Just a Leader: An Effective, Strategic Leader

A strategic challenge is a leadership challenge — and one that top-level managers and executives can’t ignore.

Studies suggest that the ability to lead strategically is essential for success in senior roles, and in a way that is different from other management levels – CCL’s Stephanie Trovas.

Consider two findings from Management Research Group (MRG). In one study, 94 percent of senior executives indicated strategic leadership was the most critical behavior for their organization’s success. A second study found that effective senior executives scored an average of 15 percentage points higher in “strategic thinking” than effective managers.

So what does it take to be an effective strategic leader? How do vice presidents and directors and CEOs learn strategic leadership skills? In CCL’s Leading Strategically program, we break it down into 11 skills in five key areas that participants learn, practice and apply to their personal strategic leadership challenge.

Strategic Learning. Senior leaders must have a firm grasp of the business. This is the “nuts and bolts” of strategy that are commonly taught and talked about. Specifically, leaders must:

  • Have a business perspective: Understand the perspectives of different functional areas in the organization and the external conditions that affect the organization.
  • Be strategic planners: Develop long-term objectives and strategies; translate vision into realistic business strategies.
  • Master organizational decision-making: Make timely decisions; readily understand complex issues; develop solutions that effectively address problems.

Leverage Polarities. Senior leaders constantly wrestle with the strategic and practical implications of priorities that appear to be in conflict. They debate the merits of global vs. regional, rewarding the team vs. rewarding individuals, centralized vs. decentralized. To be successful in today’s environment, leaders must leverage the value of each, rather than viewing them as “either/or.” This requires the ability to:

  • Manage conflicting perspectives: Recognize that every decision has conflicting interests and constituencies; balance short-term pay-offs with long-term improvement.
  • Act systemically: Understand the political nature of the organization and work within it; establish relationships and alliances throughout the organization.

Spanning Boundaries. Leaders of functions and divisions have the essential role of creating Direction, Alignment and Commitment (DAC) across boundaries. They must learn to work across vertical, horizontal, stakeholder, demographic and geographic boundaries — and support other groups and managers to do the same. Boundary spanning requires leaders who are able to:

  • Influence across the organization: Inspire; promote a vision; persuade and motivate others; influence superiors; delegate effectively.
  • Build collaborative relationships: Build productive working relationships with coworkers and external parties.

Leading Change. Senior leaders are responsible for managing change, but also for understanding and leading their organization through the cognitive and emotional dimensions of change. They need to:

  • Promote organizational transition: Support strategies that facilitate organizational change initiatives and position the business for the future.
  • Adapt to new conditions: Show agility within changing business conditions and openness to new ideas and new methods.

Shaping Culture. Organizational culture affects strategy. Senior leaders must work within current culture and, at the same time, influence culture change for greater performance potential. Leaders will need to:

  • Initiate organizational innovation: Seize new opportunities and consistently generate new ideas; introduce and create needed change even in the face of opposition.
  • Demonstrate vision: Understand, communicate and stay focused on the organization’s vision.

“There’s a lot out there about strategy and how to be a strategic leader,” Trovas notes. “But frankly, senior leaders and executives don’t get a lot of opportunities to learn new strategic leadership skills, practice them, and work with a coach and peers to apply them.

Read more from the Center for Creative Leadership here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) offers what no one else can: an exclusive focus on leadership education and research and unparalleled expertise in solving the leadership challenges of individuals and organizations everywhere. We equip clients around the world with the skills and insight to achieve more than they thought possible through creative leadership.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Tere Jackson — 09/06/13 10:06 pm

I can say Houston Methodist West Hospital has one one the greatest leaders! Wayne Voss is a role model in our organization and he has the time to apply everything we are thought! He is the ICARE values, the heart of Houston Methodist Hospital System. I am so blessed to be part of this amazing organization!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.