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If Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, What's the Role of Strategic Skills in Developing Managers and Leaders?
When you hear the word “strategy” what comes to mind?
Most people see images of senior executives huddled around a conference table, or a white board with complex diagrams, or maybe a thick binder with lots of tabs and appendices on a shelf.
Strategy is an increasingly important part of how businesses operate in the highly complex environment we face today. As we’ve written in previous blogs on leadership trends, we are seeing a definite shift in leadership development and manager development methods to emphasize the importance of strategic skills in employees.
organizations need a New Brand of Leader
In particular, our research* shows that our organizations don’t just need stronger leaders, they need a new brand of leader. These new leaders are dealing with a variety of challenges due to the complexity of the environment where they are leading. They are tasked with strategically maximizing the potential of those up, down, and around them in order to achieve success, instead of trying to carry this weight on their shoulders alone.
In essence this new type of leader–in addition to possessing high relationship skills–exemplifies a strong strategic skill set. It’s about having the relational skills to inspire others with a vision and provide direction, while also understanding how to clearly explain this vision and the strategic process behind it. Leading in today’s workplace requires managing complexity and ambiguity in order to persuade, influence, and partner with others to achieve results.
TOP-DOWN STRATEGY IS LONG GONE
Strategic skills are needed at all levels of the organization – not just in the C-suite. If you are searching for development ideas for managers, or seeking to improve your management skills development plan, strategic skills are an essential inclusion.
It may look different from level to level in your organization, but one way of considering strategic skills, especially for emerging leaders, high potentials, and in-place managers, includes three distinct yet interrelated practice areas:
- Strategic Thinking: Strategic thinking involves the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities intended to create competitive advantage for an organization. It requires understanding the big picture of the organization and its environment, focusing on long-term objectives, envisioning credible visions of possibilities and likelihoods, and anticipating future consequences and trends.
- Strategic Planning: Strategic planning is a process of defining strategy or direction and making decisions about how best to allocate resources to pursue the goals. Strategic planning involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions.
- Strategic Implementation/Execution: Execution done right is a disciplined process, a logical set of connected activities by an organization to make a strategy succeed. Two core elements of successful execution or implementation involve: 1) clarity of decision-making rights within a team, department or project and 2) making sure the right information flows to the right people at the right time to implement the strategy. In this way, strategic implementation asks the manager to be a coordinator and conductor of people and information.
We see examples of the need for these skills frequently in our work with clients. For example, one of our programs is designed to give managers the foundational skills necessary for effectively managing others. Management Vitals™ has several components that encourage participants to develop in these areas–while managing through change, planning and delegating, and even learning clear communication skills to better convey strategic objectives.
Organizations no longer have the luxury of crafting well-thought strategic plans every 3-5 years and then expecting managers in the organization to execute the plan. While the larger organizational strategy is certainly still relevant and critical, the new brand of leader is responsible for on-the-ground strategic thinking, planning and implementation. Anything short of that will fall far short of the vision for the organization’s future potential.