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What does it mean to be a strategic leader?

How to successfully implement change management

Agnes has worked so hard for several years and has been rewarded with several promotions. However, she recently learned from her chief executive officer that while the company values the operational dimension of her skills, other management team members do not view her leadership ability as strategic.

Deeply confused about what that means, Agnes then asked for further clarification. She then received a lengthy and perplexing response without any specifics. Just as it is challenging to learn how to swim when you don’t know what you are doing wrong, it is also challenging to become strategic when you don’t understand how you are not that way now, and no one can tell you what to do differently.

The volatility in the world has resulted in organisations now increasingly demanding that people at all levels be strategic. Even if your organisation has not called on you to be more strategic, I am certain you can think of your colleagues or employees with whom you work who need to develop their strategic competencies.

However, the path to that end is neither clear nor well defined. In some ways, it may feel a bit like learning to swim. You find yourself in the middle of chaos, business issues, and initiatives swirling all around you like waves.

However, the path to that end is neither clear nor well defined. In some ways, it may feel a bit like learning to swim. You find yourself in the middle of chaos, business issues, and initiatives swirling all around you like waves. This article intends to help you understand what it means to be strategic.

The focus of strategic leadership is the enduring performance potential of an organisation in achieving its potential over time to thrive in the long term. And this is true irrespective of whether your organisation is governmental or non-governmental, for-profit or non-profit.

Therefore, strategic leadership is enacted when members of a team agree to create the direction, alignment, and commitment needed to achieve the enduring performance potential of the organisation.

So, what leads some organisations to thrive and some others to die. Why can some organisations weather a harsh storm, make necessary changes, embark on a new path, and reach success in a new way, while others are swallowed up by their competition?

In the light of the above, we must understand that the key to strategic leadership is the context in which leadership occurs: it must have strategic implications for the organisation. This requires seeing the organisation as an interdependent and interconnected system of multiple parts, where decisions in one area provoke actions in other areas.

In the same way, the scope extends beyond the organisation, acting on and reacting to trends and issues in the environment. Like its scope, the time horizon of strategic leadership is also far-reaching. The strategic leader must keep long-term goals in mind while working to achieve short-term objectives.

To achieve enduring performance potential, organisations need to undergo a periodic transformation, and therefore strategic leadership requires successfully navigating and leading these changes. To the extent that strategy involves interconnected patterns of choices throughout the business, strategic transformation requires a shift in these interconnected patterns, which is complex and multifaceted to be effective.

It is pertinent to note that effective leadership does not necessarily institute significant organisational change. For example, leading a team to complete a recurring task, such as closing out the organisation’s quarterly books, requires effective leadership, but that does not create significant change. Another example of leadership that does not have strategic implications is leading a team to complete a task that is not strategic in nature.

Read also: How strategic is your leadership?

A clear example is a strategic team assigned to open up a new retail outlet store in a global company with thousands of such stores worldwide. The team’s objective is to open the new stores in a timely and effective way, and they may be doing that successfully. While this task is critical to successfully implementing the organisation’s overall strategy, it is not strategic in nature. The scope and time frame are not far-reaching, nor does the task involve significant organisational change.

However, if members of the strategy team collaborate with others in the company to review the distribution of stores across the world, understand trends among consumers, and create plans for new store openings and closures, then that task would have strategic implications.

The competitive forces in today’s environment require us to be as in tune with our environment as possible. Those at the middle and lower levels of the organisation are best suited to know the customers, competitors, and industry trends.

As they work to implement the strategic intent, they learn new information that informs and shapes the strategy. In this way, the lines between strategy making and implementation and the lines between planner and implementer become blurred.

From the preceding, we can deduce that strategic leadership exists beyond. The executive ranks of an organisation. It also exists in individuals and teams throughout the organisation who are close to the customer, consumer, and client and have access to data and information that are important for the organisation’s long-term success. In this way, the best chief executives then rely on and nurture input and insights throughout the organisation to set the strategy, enact the strategy, and help in understanding how well the strategy is working.

In conclusion, strategy involves change and achieving long-term performance potential in an ever-changing environment that requires continuous adaptation. The critical issue for strategic leaders is how to make changes that progressively build on each other and represent an evolving enhancement of the organisation’s well-being.