Archive | June, 2013

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

14 Jun

I welcome you to this edition of ‘The Now Leadership’ blog.

According to Wikipedia, Strategy is defined as a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.

It is one attribute that leaders in every sphere of human existence (not limited to troop leaders and military generals) must possess to achieve their objectives. It is an art of a troop leader. Strategy is what defines the office of a general (whether army, navy or air-force). Strategy (in leadership) cuts across all strata of leadership-at homes, organizations, churches, businesses etc.

There is no area of life where strategy is not needed to succeed in that area. Even when it comes to a guy-lady relationship, the guy has to be strategic to woo the lady, otherwise he won’t succeed in his pursuit. The strategies include keeping her in suspense, pleasant surprises, taking her to special places on a date, gifts,…the list is endless, but one word that sums them all up is STRATEGY.

I love the definition of Strategy as stated by Max Mckeown (2011). He said and I quote “Strategy is the human attempt to get to ‘desirable ends with available means’.”

The desirable end is the goal you have set as a leader with the members of your team. While setting the goal,put the end picture in perspective. You have to cast the vision for the team.

From the above definitions, strategy and leadership are two-power twin. One cannot exist without the other. The two are meant to co-exist together. Leadership cannot be said to be effective without strategy in place.

Your plans and goals as a leader cannot see the light of the day without designing a system and support group that will ensure its reality being put in place. And that is what strategy is all about.

The good book also drives home this point about Strategic Planning. It was the very words spoken by the greatest leader of all times (Jesus) himself- “Have you seen a man who wants to build a skyscraper and will not sit down first, take stocks of the resources available to him and how he can use them judiciously, to know if it’ll be enough or not?” (Paraphrased). That statement by the ultimate leader points to the fact that leadership requires strategy for it to be effective.

I watched the fourth season of the award-winning movie entitled ‘Spartacus’ this past week. One thing that struck me most is the strategy being employed by Spartacus and his team and how they were able to execute these strategies at every point in time. One thing they did was that they would always think from the enemy’s frame of mind and develop a system that’ll counter the attack of the enemy.

According to Wikipedia, A goal is a desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. A goal is what you want to get done at the end of a period or regime. It is measured in time. Your goal as a leader has got to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bounded. (S-M-A-R-T)

A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective (Wikipedia). Another word for a Plan is Strategy. A plan consists of steps you are going to take to ensure that the goal becomes a reality. This is where strategy comes into play. You must be strategic when you’re planning to do a thing as a leader.

One of the reasons you need to be strategic in your approach as a leader is the fact that you’ll be working with uncertainties most of the times. You cannot wait for the coast to be clear before you make a move. You need to be proactive and engage your mental faculty vis-a-vis your heart when making a decision.

Also, you will not always have all the resources needed to achieve a goal. Most times, you’ll be working with a very tight budget, less than enough team members on a course, and other uncertainties. What will give your leadership an edge is how strategic you are in your thinking, approach and actions which will ultimately make all the difference.

There are different forms of strategy cutting across various fields of human endeavors- business, military, and even in games.

Business strategy talks about strategies that management employ to ensure the business breaks even, makes profit and beats market competition at all times. That is, strategy ensures that the overall performance of the business is up to pal. That’s why some organizations have the position of a Strategy Manager. The role of the Strategy Manager among others is to ensure there are strategies in place to drive the business forward and help the organization to realize its goals and objectives.

When I think about strategy in game theory, one game that comes to mind is the game of Chess. You must think two to four steps ahead of your opponent if you are going to be the winner at the end of the game. The steps your opponent is taking must also be considered when you’re taking a step and ultimately determines your final decision. How I love the game of chess!… It makes you think outside the box. Strategy requires that you think outside the box as a leader in order to achieve the desired goal.

When I considered the lifestyle of the greatest leader who ever lived (Jesus) and how he carried out his assignment and fulfilled his leadership mandate, all I could see is a leader who was very strategic in his thoughts, steps and actions. More than two thousand years after he walked this earth, his leadership and impact cannot be compared to none. He casted his vision strategically, empowered his team members strategically, taught the people strategically and conducted himself wisely and strategically.

I’ll like to mention some components of strategy. I believe these are some of the things that make up for a leader to be said to have a good strategy in place concerning any project at hand. The list is in-exhaustive and you can add more to the list.

Any strategy must be:

# Focused: What objective is this strategy going to achieve? You must be a goal-snipper when you want to design the strategy to employ in leadership. The strategy must align with the goal the team wants to achieve.

# Team-oriented: The strategy employed must bring the team together and not divided the team. It must results in team synergy.

# Result-oriented: The end must be in view. Keep talking about the big picture when you meet with your team members.

# Measured: There should be a score-card mechanism in place to measure and check if the strategy is working or not. If it’s not working, then another strategy has got to be employed. Get back to the drawing board with your team members and develop a new strategy. Change is the only constant thing in life.

# Structured: The strategy must have a structure that every member of the team must know and follow to the letter. This will prevent disorderliness and ambiguity in the process of implementation. Make it plain!

# Written down: Strategies or plans must be penned down on paper- ‘write the vision…’

I am delighted to see lives transformed and changed as a result of effective leadership at every level.

Friends, raise the bar on your leadership potential. Be strategic about the issues of your life. Take the driver’s seat when it comes to your life. Don’t be passive about your dreams, desired and plans. Get involved in changing the lives of people around you. That is where true fulfillment lies.

You will succeed!

Love,

Olumide Olaoye