A simple tool like the Mckinseys 7’s framework, an organisational tool that assesses the well-being and future success of a company through the lens of internal factors, could be one of tools used to determine whether a company has the structural support to be successful. These factors will remain a cornerstone that will define business capabilities and a competitive reach that a business has in the midst of all these changes.
Although internal and more frequent than before, there is an inherent need to align with the business environment credit to regulatory and compliance issues, ESG factors and customer preferences as they force businesses to adjust their sails from time to time. With all these unprecedented moving parts, leaders in their given organisations have to remain ‘switched on’ and keenly aware to what is happening around them in their organisations. Strategic leadership, not just leadership, becomes a key factor for survival of the business. It is also important to note that strategy manifests at different levels, namely corporate strategy, business strategy and a functional strategy. Therefore, strategic leadership is not only provided by the Chief Executive Officer, Executive Management, Business Heads and Managers but is a hat that all people in the organisation should wear, all the time or sometimes, depending on the role they play. Leading a team or not, with or without a title, strategic leadership should be cultivated to become a norm and should guide everyday aspects of an entity, its tactics and operational aspects.
Strategy, as I have defined it in previous articles in accordance with Johnson, Scholes, and Willington (2008), is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long term, which achieves advantage in a changing environment through its configuration of resources and competencies with the aim of fulfilling stakeholders’ expectations. On the other hand, Strategic Leadership refers to a leader’s potential to express strategic vision for the organisation or part of the organisation, and to motivate and persuade others to acquire that vision. The other definition that I found quite interesting is that strategic leadership is a leader’s ability to visualise, plan, lead and make the best out of the resources they have to execute strategies effectively and successfully.
In Mark Nervins and John Hillen’s article titled “Becoming a Strategic Leader,” they put the point across that a strategic leader is not in the brilliant-idea-generation business even though new processes, products and/or innovations may occasionally result. Rather, a strategic leader is in the thinking-a-certain-way business: a disciplined mindset that allows him/her to escape the daily management fire drills and other Lilliputian tangles to be able to pull back and see the bigger picture.
Furthermore, most executives have to some extent built their careers on operational expertise and mastery of tactical details, and often assume that the tenets of strategic thinking are relatively straightforward. Strategic leadership is more about the long term than the short term. It is more about the bigger picture than the immediate horizon and requires a broad perspective rather than a narrow focus.
In light of this, I have complied five qualities that, in my view, are top qualities that a strategic leader must possess. I submit them to my readers, fellow industry colleagues and critics with an open mind and aware that we will not comprehensively agree because we each have our preferences. But to remove the subjectivity out of the picture, I compiled my top 5 qualities through observation, sampling, listening and research. The submission below is confined to these common traits of strategic leaders. In the next article, I will delve more and discuss these traits and provide examples of such leaders where possible.
The most common trait which we shall look into include the following:
- Possession of a long-term orientation;
- Opening of doors to ideas;
- Learning, re-learning and re-alignment;
- Continually striving for development of a strong corporate culture; and
- Mavericks of a fail-safe environment.
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