Leadership is the art of influencing people to execute your strategic thinking.
– Nabil Khalil Basma
Over the years, we have seen different definitions and styles of leadership; from the time when the strongest was considered the leader to when the person with the solution is considered the leader and the style where a leader is dictatorial and transactional to where leaders become adaptive, strategic and transformational. However, in this post, we shall be looking at what strategic leaders do.
What is really the connection between leadership and strategy? What is strategic leadership?
According to the Business Dictionary strategic leadership is “the process of using well-considered tactics to communicate a vision for an organization or one of its parts.”
Put in another way, Strategic Leadership is the ability of a leader to influence others to voluntarily make decisions that enhance the prospects for accomplishing the team’s vision. Leading people and groups in this constantly changing and the ambiguous world requires strategic leaders who not only provide a sense of direction but who can also instill stakeholder mentality and alignment within their teams to achieve expected outputs.
The word strategy emanated from the Greek word, strategia which connotes adopting the right position to bring about victory. On the other hand, a leader is the one who provides visionary direction and guidance to a team, organization, or nation. So by extension, a strategic leader, therefore, is one who is able to adopt the right position and processes to achieve expected results. A strategy is the outcome of a thorough thinking process and it is the responsibility of the leader to create a pool of ideas out of which the right applicable strategies can emerge.
The following are seven critical functions of a strategic leader that we shall be discussing briefly:
1. Strategic thinking and planning
Strategic leaders have the core function of looking into the future and developing long term plans which will properly situate their organization, team or community where they ought to belong in order for them to remain relevant. In addition to that, they also create a pathway for the pursuit and accomplishment of the plan which they achieve through strategic thinking; strategic thinking provokes strategic planning. They know that those who become great are those who plan for it so they must plan.
Some characteristics of strategic thinking and planning are:
Such plans must differentiate between what is very important, important, less important and unimportant bearing in mind that what is urgent is not always what is important.
The plans have to be long term and sustainable as against short term for just low hanging fruits.
All the factors or elements critical to the overall objective must be taken into consideration; not just one or few but as many as possible.
2. A strategic leader provides direction
Being able to identify the right direction to go is a very important role that strategic leaders must play because in them lie the vested trust and confidence of the followers that they would arrive at their expected end safely and timely by following their lead. Therefore the strategic leader’s mind must always be occupied with critical thinking of the way to go per time and how to negotiate it.
We will identify three important sources of generating direction in leadership.
Every defined purpose must possess appropriate content and value and should also connect with the moral code the leader subscribes to so as to enable him to assemble an energetic and disciplined team that keys into the vision. Check here to read a previous post on how to discover purpose (how to find yourself)
This defines the standard of morals and principles a person or group is guided by; it must be strong enough to provide direction and good enough not to become a limitation.
Vision is a mental picture of an expected end to be accomplished in the future. It inspires hope and catalyzes action in positive directions and helps leaders to differentiate between progress and retrogression. Vision is the propelling force of leaders and the attracting force of followers. It is the lighthouse that guides the leader to steer their team or group safely and rightly.
3. A strategic Leader relates the part to the whole
Strategic leaders must be able to bring harmony and uniformity by creating the right balance between tasks, individuals, and teams. They are meant to adopt and operate a helicopter position in order to integrate various teams and tasks toward expected ends.
4. A strategic leader delivers results
Anytime you see something working, just know that someone is behind it because nothing works except someone make it work. Results are the products of a leader’s thought process and so must be evident in order to attract attention and respect. When somebody is good at what they do, people are naturally drawn to them, that is why strategic leaders are expected to always make things happen while others are wishing or wanting it to happen. Always remember that in our world today, the leader is the one with the solution not the one in the position.
5. A strategic leader builds partnerships
Every strategic leader must possess the capacity to identify and attract allies and helpers that share a common goal with him so that they can work together to achieve results. Task scheduling or role specification is done first of all so that each person knows what to do and how best to play their roles effectively before committing to the partnership. Opening up the system for assistance and partnership is actually a virtue that shows the strength of a leader, not weakness as perceived in some quarters.
6. A strategic leader fosters stakeholder mentality
An essential part of the functions of strategic leaders is to develop and foster the much-needed stakeholder mentality which confers a sense of belonging to every team member. When this has been established, it makes it a lot easier for them to commit to the vision and play their roles accordingly.
7. A strategic leader grooms future leaders
The responsibility of committing to the growth and development of people is actually the highest calling of leadership. Strategic leaders select and groom new leaders at operational and team levels thus ensuring the continuity and sustainability of the vision or project that brought them together.
They believe that a community of leaders is easier to lead than a community of followers so they work assiduously to ensure their team members don’t remain just followers by mainstreaming their transition to leadership status.
We all live in a dynamic ever-evolving world that challenges us all to constantly develop and adopt strategies that can enable us to stay relevant and effective because sticking to old methods of doing things may not give us the required results. Therefore, leaders who want to remain relevant and productive must become strategic both in thinking and operation otherwise they will be frozen in the past and limited in capacity to guide their teams to fulfill their vision. Also as a first step to becoming a strategic leader, you must discover yourself. You may like to read How To Discover Yourself Using The Self-Discovery Matrix to get started.
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