Lead, talking Strategy

This title sounds like a clue to a cryptic crossword. It may well be, but hopefully there's something - two things in fact - more interesting to consider as well.

The first is that the thinking, and therefore the language, around leadership quite often comes from psychology and/or sociology. No problem in that, except that these are not usually the disciplines which managers, including those who see themselves as leaders, are most familiar with. By all means go to psychology and sociology for more understanding, but leadership is very much about achieving the goals of an organisation, which is also what strategy is about.

The second issue is that making strategy is attractive - analysing situations, identifying opportunities etc. - but a more frequently heard concern from managers is that they want to be able execute and implement strategy, and lead others in doing so too.

So, how to address these two challenges, and preferably at the same time?

We'll start from the well accepted idea that leadership is a process, not a position, and it's carried out at all levels of an organisation - in sociological language it's non-hierarchical. Everyone should have tasks that can be related to an overall strategy, whether of the whole organisation or a unit within it. If they can't, maybe they're the wrong tasks altogether.

But if they can, here are a few very brief ideas from strategy that, if put into practice, may make the difference between successful and unsuccessful leadership:
- See the big picture and communicate it, but beware information overload.
- Define key tasks and match to individual or group capabilities.
- Remember, different individuals approach things in different ways - aim to accommodate this without giving up on consistency.
- Ensure that other resources are in place when they need to be - no prizes for "making do", and certainly not for requesting them when things have not gone according to plan.
- "Now or never" sounds dramatic, but time is also a resource and it's easily wasted or lost, especially if something needs to be done to keep to a schedule or sequence.
- Strategy is very much about linking resources to opportunities, and especially to priorities. Resources are finite, so not everything can be a priority. These links may change over time, as a project evolves, or new issues arise, so we should be prepared to make adjustments and communicate the reasons for doing so.

This is longer than our usual posts, but we think it's important. The ideas are fairly obvious but often overlooked. It also hopefully makes clear that strategy is not someone else's responsibility - maybe the making is (although it need not be) but once the action begins, it's "all hands on deck" and everybody needs to know their job.


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