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Effective Leadership - Step 2: Strategy

In the first article on Effective Leadership we discussed the need for vision and presented a model for developing a compelling, sustainable vision. In this issue we move to the next key element in effective leadership: strategy.

Simply put, strategy defines how we get from where we are to where we want to be. Getting to where we want to be implies we know where we are going. And as we said at the close of the first article: If you don't know where you are going, any path will do.

Let's be real clear about this: If you are to develop an effective strategy, you must build it on a firm foundation. Your vision stands as the foundation upon which the strategy is based. Without the vision, in all its components (purpose, values, vivid description, and BHAG), a strategy is nothing more than a cleaver idea built on shifting sands. Recall that the purpose and values are relatively constant over time, but the vivid description and BHAG are more fluid and will respond to changing conditions. Indeed, achieving some desired future state might require multiple strategies and actions. It is out of this truth that a strategizing process is born..

Building on the foundation of our vision, it is important to be very clear and realistic about where you are today. What is true about your present situation? Do not fall into the trap of settling for answers to this question that describe only the symptoms of your present condition. Dig deep and get to the source of the problem or situation. Like the physician that treats only the symptoms, if you do not understand the source of the problem or present situation and address only the symptoms, you will not solve the problem or be able to clearly decide what truly needs to be done..

Next, identify where you want to be. What strategic objective will be addressed? There may be multiple strategic objectives that will need to be addressed and achieved in order to fulfill the BHAG. If so, decide the order in which they must be addressed, perhaps even developing sub-strategies for each..

With the strategic objective defined and your present situation clearly understood, you have created a gap through which you must move. It is unavoidable. So the question becomes how do you bridge that gap? Here you develop the tactics that will be employed to bridge the gap. What raw materials and resources will be needed? Who are the best people to participate in making this happen? What has to shift or change if we are to successfully bridge this gap? What tactical solutions will we employ to get there (i.e., how do we combine the resources to effect the shifts and changes in order to implement our solution and achieve our strategic objective?)?.

As a leader, it is your job to oversee this process, so pay very careful attention to those factors that are key to success. Know what they are, be sure everyone on your team knows what they are, and monitor them constantly..

Recognize that this model is applicable at senior levels and at middle management levels. Middle managers may be tasked to implement key segments of your strategy, yet the middle managers need strategies of their own. After all, they are leading their people in the accomplishment of a strategic objective of their own, albeit one that is consistent with and an integral part of a larger strategic objective. And just like the strategy of the senior executive, if the middle manager is to develop an effective strategy, she or he must build it on a firm foundation. And that foundation is a vision that speaks to the manager/leader and their people. Remember that the strategy must be consistent with the purpose and values of the strategist, and it must support the ultimate goal of the strategist..

Copyright 2004 by Richard B. Maxwell III

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