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Strategic leadership

posted May 2, 2013, 12:50 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Jan 14, 2019, 10:37 AM ]
There are different models to define leadership, there are different aspects of leadership which are described by styles, type and more. There is a lot written and spoken about leadership so instead of writing much here, it is better to put links of references (please see at the end of this page. Summary of few important points here:

Leadership theories

  • Traits theory
  • Behavioral styles theory
  • Situational/contingency theories
  • Functional theories

Some models were defined which tried eliminating shortcomings of theories mentioned above:

Four Framework Approach by Bolman and Deal (1991)

Leadership style or behavior may succeed or fail based on a specific situation. Only one style is not always successful or right.

Following frameworks are described:

  • Structural
    • Focus: Strategy, implementation, structure etc
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a social architect who focused of analysis and design
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as person looking at detail, a perry tyrant
  • Human resource
    • Focus: people, accessible, promote participation, motivate
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a catalyst.
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as a pushover, whose style is abdication and fraud
  • Political
    • Focus: Building linkage, assess the distribution of power and interests. Use persuasion first then negotiation
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as an advocate, coalition and building
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as a manipulator
  • Symbolic
    • Focus: playing certain roles, use symbols to capture attention, discovering and communicating a vision
    • Effective leadership situation: seen as a prophet who inspires others
    • Ineffective leadership situation: seen as fanatic and fool

Three level of leadership model

  • Public leadership
  • Private leadership
  • Personal leadership

Leadership model described by John Adair, of University of Surrey & Sandhurst

  • Team leadership
  • Operational leadership
  • Strategic leadership

What is strategic leadership?

Definition of strategic leadership often confuses me. There are many conflicting explanations and theories which raise some questions:

  • Can we call (or is it necessary to call) a manager as a leader who merely  (or is supposed to only) manages day to day operational activities, manages a team and customer.?
  • Is is necessary for a manager to have leadership role and qualities of a leader?
  • Is it always possible to have a person with all the qualities: management skills, leadership skills, visionary, strategist, mentor, planner etc etc.?
  • Do we hire manager, "only if" they have all the qualities of a manager and a leader? If yes how do we test those qualities in an interview of one hour (most of the time over telephone)? 
  • Don't we only see a resume in which a person claims that he worked as a manager, and we see he has a PMP certification/Prince2 certification and  we ask about his assignments, what did he do? some questions about project management and all? Is it sufficient to certify a person as a leader?
  • Can methods and theories make some one a leader?

It is a difficult question and argument, lots of things come naturally rest you learn ( but only if you have that bent of mind by nature). Every manager may not be a leader and can not be a leader. Every person who is a good strategists may not be a successful manager. If you need a person to manage who should also have leadership qualities and specially strategic leadership qualities, you can find that rare combination but it is a rare combination that is why there are only few success stories (although everyone had been claiming as he was a leader and great manager, strategist etc) and very few (specially school dropouts) made fortunes (who actually didn't study these theories in business schools). 

Coming to definition of "strategic leadership", some derive it from definition of leadership i.e. leadership+ some other qualities.

Leader means who leads (not commands). Who leads means who takes first step, who shows to his team how to proceed, how to do something. Unfortunately you would have seen most of the people who wants to be in leadership role or who are in leadership role give orders to the people who they lead, they expect others to work for them as per their wish but don't know and don't show how this is done, they can't tell their teams, how it can be done better and effectively. Why am I putting it all here is to clarify the expectations and definitions and to expose the confusion, incorrect perceptions about a leader.

Either except that a leader is who he is at a higher post in an organization and orders others to fulfill his wishes,  expects others to work for a common goal. Sits in a room, decides something with some other similar people and expects that due to his speech others will be motivated. Further he expects from his sales team to work for the goals he has decided based on his long term vision but he never goes to the market with his sales person: "to show how it is sold to a customer, and feel the heat, how difficult it is to sell something in current market". He never goes to the floor (except once in a while floor visit when all the preparations are already done before his visit). He never and can not work as a common worker who produces things. He doesn't know what are ground realities at floor and what are the challenges of production. He never goes to stores and market to actually see how his product it taken by customers, how people are taking competitive products or services. He never speaks to his customers and never sits in interview process at lowest level to make sure actual workers who are producers, are hired correctly. Now consider this person as a leader and rely on him to make strategy of your product/ organization and keep believing he will motivate people in the organization.

There is an interesting post (by Josh Bersin) worth reading   http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2012/07/30/its-not-the-ceo-its-the-leadership-strategy-that-matters/

Or define leader as a person who sets examples for his team, who before setting goals for others is able to do that and can show the best way to do it, who knows the ground realities and based on that thinks holistic picture, should make long term vision to set and achieve goals.  

By this definition managers who can not code should not be considered as leaders for programmers. CEO who can not sell the products should not be considered as leader of sales team. CEO is a CEO.

Another thing, motivated and influenced are two different things. mislead and motivated are also two different things. Following orders because of slavery is not motivation.  Between master and slave, master is master not a leader. Master can get something done by his slave but it can not be called motivation.

A strategists must also be a leader? not necessary

Not sure. Depends on how do you want to hire a person. If you want your cow to give milk and eggs too, it is your requirement and you can find that cow, be happy. But qualities of a strategist are different and qualities of a leader are different. To be a good leader you don't need to be a strategist and to be a good strategist you don't need to be a leader. But in the market if all the companies want to hire a person who can play both the roles it is a different point.

Strategic leader (and strategic leadership as two roles) means a person who is a leader and also a strategist, further he has leadership qualities and strategist qualities. I believe, let strategists make the strategies and leaders lead the people in implementing those strategies. If one person has qualities of both and he can do justice with both the responsibilities nothing great like that.

Qualities of a leader

  • Ability to build team
  • Ability to motivate his team
  • Able to inspire
  • Should have courage to accept his mistakes and correct them (ability to say sorry)
  • Should accept success of his team/member and promote them
  • Should be able to give direction
  • Should be visionary
  • Communicate (honestly)
  • Take risk
  • Listen to others (specially team)
  • Should be able to demonstrate how it can be done (what you expect from others to do)
  • Positive attitude and creativity
  • Commitment and confidence
  • Ability to delegate

Qualities of a strategist

If you want to make a strategy (successful) to increase sales, to create skill pool/capability, if you are working on business strategy of your organization to make your organization a game changer in the market or you are working on a specific piece of work and going to formulate strategy, you are working on a problem to solve it. Problem may be a goal, vision or an issue and solution is how to achieve that goal, how(solution) to realize that vision, how to resolve that issue? 

Knowledge and experience in related field

First thing is you should have knowledge of that field and through knowledge of that field. Apart from knowledge you should have experience in that field. 

Know environment

Apart form knowledge of the field you should know competition, ground realities and facts. When coming to solution, it will be an average answer if it is formulated based on experience and environment only.

Out of the box & critical thinking

Looking at big picture, thinking beyond boundary and critical analysis is most important. If you go beyond normal boundaries and think about what is normally not possible and ask why not this, why not that you can find a new way? Unless you think and ask questions like this it will be an average solution within a boundary. Questioning routine solutions and ways of working is also important.

See in the future

If you can not see in the future and look at immediate problem only it can not make a strategy but a temporary resolution of a problem. You should be able to envision and anticipate what is going to happen and what can not work in future.

Learning attitude

You should be able to learn from all around and from your past mistakes and experience. You should be able to learn new things and ways.

Analytical skills

You should be good at analyzing facts, information and situation. Often people don't collect sufficient information and their decisions, solutions, strategies are not based on facts and analysis of information. These are bound to fail. Collection of information and facts and their analysis is important.

Decision ability

Based on analysis you should be able to come to a conclusion and decision. There can be many situations which are ambiguous, yes and no both can have almost equal possibilities and ability to choose one is important here.

Accept and adopt

You should be a good listener, be able to accept views of others if they are worth considering and be able to find correct suggestions and adopt them.

Interesting resources/references

http://www.wip.ddiworld.com/pdf/ddi_WhatSeniorLeadersDoTheNineRoles_wp.pdf

http://www.inc.com/paul-schoemaker/6-habits-of-strategic-thinkers.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2012/07/30/its-not-the-ceo-its-the-leadership-strategy-that-matters/

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