It’s guest post Monday! This post is written by Nathan Magnuson who is a leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and thought leader. To learn more about his services, visit NathanMagnuson.com/consulting or follow him on Twitter. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.
Everyone has something to say about leadership these days, whether it’s an opinion, complaint, resource, or philosophy. “Leaders get the most out of others,” some say. “Leadership is all about serving,” others add. Where does the commentary end?
While I truly believe that anyone can become a leadership expert (yes, that means you!), it’s also true that leadership is more than just a sentiment. Leaders don’t just influence other people to feel a certain way. They influence change. They make things happen that wouldn’t otherwise happen and set things in motion that alter the course of the future. As Tom Rath says in his book Strengths Based Leadership, “Leaders with great strategic thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be.”
So what I’d like to share with you are the three simple keys to thinking – and leading – strategically.
1. Discover Where You’re Going
Strategic leaders are future-focused. That means they can see down the road and visualize what reality could or should look like. Then they keep themselves, their teams, and their organizations focused on achieving the desired future state. When the future destination is unclear, any activity will most likely send the organization in a different (read: wrong) direction.
2. Determine Where You Are
Once the future destination or state is determined, strategic leaders are able to determine where they are in relation to it. Some say knowing where you are ought to come first, but I don’t necessarily agree. Where you are may be good or bad depending on where you want to go. If you want to be in Kansas City, there is a big difference between being in St. Louis or being in Washington, DC. Knowing where you are – your current state – sets the stage for the final key.
3. Deduce How to Get There
Once strategic leaders uncover the desired future state and the current state, they figure out what route or what steps should be taken to get there. No roadmap or strategy can ever be effective without a future objective to serve as guidance. This may seem overly simplistic, but I’ve personally seen many different types of organizations which either lacked or were unclear on their overarching strategy. Every team pursued their own set of good ideas which resulted in the organizations literally being pulled apart by competing priorities or needing to undergo significant “strategy therapy” – all at a high cost of effectiveness, morale, and usually budget.
So what does strategic leadership have to do with the personal side of leadership? Ask yourself this question: how will my followers (employees, customers, constituents, families, etc.) be negatively impacted if I am unable to determine the three strategic keys listed above? All the sentiment in the world won’t matter without the strategic piece. One of the best ways we can serve our followers is to ensure that the strategic efforts of our organization are in good hands.
I realize many leaders are more naturally suited for other domains of leadership, like relationship building or execution. That doesn’t relieve them from the responsibility to lead strategically, but it also doesn’t mean they necessarily have to do perform each strategic task themselves.
Question: Is there someone else on your team who is a more natural fit to lead the strategic responsibilities? If so, are you willing to follow?