The year 2020 is shifting the platelets of corporate culture and bringing us into a chaotic twister of forced renovation. Daily, we are spinning on our heads and left wondering which side is up. But what if we had the opportunity to gain a new perspective—or, more specifically, a new strategic leadership model? Not all of us are apt to welcome this chaos into our lives and adapt to the shifting winds that bear down upon our organizational structures. Some of us prefer the familiar and would rather fight against the shifting gusts. However, the only way to fight the wind and the waves is to raise the sails and create strategies that move us forward. If you want to progress and succeed in 2020, you have to relent and raise your sails—you have to operate from strategic leadership. This article will give you the tools that you need to implement strategic leadership and progress your company through the storms of uncertainty. Let’s get you started with some practical tips.
What Is Strategic Leadership?
Strategic leadership is one of the most popular styles of leadership right now. It’s a model that has been proven successful for the vast majority of departments and business genres. However, it’s not always the easiest to implement. To be a strategic leader, you need to operate from an open-minded perspective. You need to lean into the evolutionary shifts within your business and allow the ebbs and flows to influence your trajectory. This type of leadership might look chaotic to the outside eye. But flexibility is imperative because it is the only way to sustain the twists and turns in business. Think about it: your business started with a plan. However, if you want to succeed and reach your fiscal goals for the year, you need to learn how to color outside the lines. It’s useful for all corporations to implement strategic leadership. Still, it’s not the most comfortable for all business leaders, especially type-A or those who prefer a micromanagement leadership style. Strategic leadership is a powerful tool, but you have to be willing to embrace the wind and the waves as part of your journey and get a bit messy. This leadership model is not a simple formula. There isn’t a how-to model that you can follow from A-Z. However, it is one of the only strategies that work, especially in 2020.
Case Study of Strategic Leadership
There are numerous examples of strategic leadership, but let’s focus on two corporations that understand how to leverage their storms and create powerful strategies:
According to CNBC,((CNBC: Google is the first major company to formally extend work-from-home until summer 2021—who’s next?))
“Google employees can continue to work from home until July 2021, making it the first major tech company to extend its remote-work arrangement into next summer in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.”
Google is not just a tech company—it is a culture. When you think of this top-level corporation, you think of quidditch tournaments, yoga studios, sleeping pods, and coffee bars. In short, you think of Disney World with Millennial techies. But this year, Google went beyond its branding. It chose to look at the statistics, adapt its company policies, and pivot its goals to benefit its employees. When Google decided to extend its remote-work option through 2021, it became a company about people, not just a product.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has allowed chaos to lead him to innovative ideas since inception. When Amazon first started, it sold books and had a limited online presence. However, it has become one of the biggest competitors. This shift in popularity did not happen haphazardly. If anything, Amazon became a top-level competitor because Jeff Bezos became a top-level strategic leader. Bezos created a company that worked because he took the time to see what was amiss. He took the time to pause, evaluate what needed to change, and then collaborated with the right people to move forward. For example, Amazon not only expanded its inventory, but it also limited its carbon footprint. According to Politico,((Politico: Amazon to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans for 2040 carbon neutrality plan))
“Amazon invested $700 million in the electric vehicle company.”
In many ways, Amazon progressed because Bezos’ strategy reflected societal values and environmental perspectives. They grew more powerful and influential because of Bezos’ strategic leadership.
Why Is Strategic Leadership Important?
Strategic leadership is imperative to understand because it is one of the only models that resonate with Millennials and Generation Z. There are numerous leadership styles, but most younger generations value this model because it emphasizes collaboration, inclusivity, and diversity within the workplace. Strategic leadership is about creating a culture of influence without developing a mindset of absolutes. Now, not all leadership styles operate from a lateral style or a Post-Enlightenment philosophy. But they all place a high value on universal ownership above the hierarchical influence. There are many styles of the strategic leadership model. Here are three of the main structures.
Types of Strategic Leadership
Strategic leadership includes three 3 subsets, which are “authoritative, participatory, and delegative.”((WiseGeek: What Are the Different Methods of Strategic Leadership?)) Authoritative leadership is one of the most popular forms of managerial styles within many business structures. However, this leadership style is one of the most contentious because it’s popularity is colored by generational preference. Baby Boomers and Generation X respond well to authoritative leadership because they grew up with the ideology of paying one’s dues, climbing the corporate ladder, and working within a hierarchical framework. However, the same cannot be said of Millennials and Generation Z. Younger generations view leadership from more of a lateral perspective. This is why the majority of them prefer the participative structure of leadership. Delegative leadership spans generational partiality and works well for the vast majority of employees. This style encourages participation, but it still heavily places the responsibility of leadership upon upper management.
How to Be a Strategic Leader
Right now, you have millions of employees who are talented and ready to further your mission. However, to get the best from your team, you have to become a leader—more importantly, a strategic leader. Here are some tips that you can implement now!
1. Embrace the Pause Button
We all remember fire drills when we were kids. Stop, drop, and roll. Even then, we realized the power of pausing before taking action. The same is valid for business. If we want to further our company, we need to stop old habits, drop our insecurities, and roll with the punches. Embracing the pause button is one of the most important aspects of strategic leadership because it protects us from making decisions based on assumptions. When we take the time to be still, we can see everything from various perspectives and measure what is working and what needs to be changed. When you embrace the pause button, you give yourself time to form the correct response and collaborate with the right people. However, if you rush in without stopping, you run the risk of creating action without purpose. Business needs to be measurable for it to be successful. When you embrace the pause button, you react with an innovative response; instead of an assumptive reaction.
2. Acknowledge Your Own Implicit Bias
Strategic leadership is more than creating the right structure. It also means developing the right mindset and acknowledging your own implicit biases and potential cognitive biases. Introspection is imperative for strategic leadership. But it can’t stop at awareness. If you want to develop a cognitively diversified, inclusive, and equitable company, you must go beyond understanding and adopt accountability. Strategic leaders embrace awareness, invite others to measure their progress, and invite their team to provide feedback. Understanding yourself and your biases might not seem profitable to your bottom line, but when you take the time to learn what needs to shift in your own life, you understand what needs to change in your business.
3. Embrace Progress, Not Perfection
If you’re waiting to be perfect, you’ll never progress. Your company and your employees are not looking for you to know all the answers. If anything, they’re waiting for you to invite them to be a part of the solution. There is only one qualification if you want to be a strategic leader: you have to be human. Your team understands that you will make mistakes and create a few messes along the journey. Leadership is difficult. But anything worth it usually takes work. Strategic leadership requires you to step away from the sidelines and get in the game. When you trudge through the mud and embrace moments of messiness, you invite your team to see you as a partner, not a performer. It’s not about being perfect. You will mess up. However, if you’re willing to aim for progress, you’ll move your company forward. If you want your business to get to the next level, you can’t waste time agonizing over every single aspect of each decision. Strategic leadership requires you to implement strategies that work—even if they’re not perfect.
Today, a vast number of employees want to work for companies with a compelling mission. They want to utilize their talents and creativity within the workforce. However, to create companies conducive to employee expectations, business executives need to become strategic leaders. If you want to succeed in 2020, take time to pause, fail forward, and take time to understand your own implicit biases. Step out of past stagnancy, step into a present-day strategy, and become a strategic leader.