Five Traits of Strategic Leadership

With a client list that includes adidas, Jaguar Land Rover, Morrisons and many regional and local businesses, Juliette Dennett, MD of Dale Carnegie Northern England, has worked with numerous senior level people across the UK and in this blog shares her knowledge about the attributes of strategic leaders in this must read blog.

In today’s world where disruption in our markets and our organisations is increasingly inevitable the ability to see around corners and spot threats and opportunities before they arrive is a vital strategic strength. The 1990s was a golden era for bricks and mortar music retailer, HMV, as computer games and DVDs grew in popularity. In 2002, with continued growth and significant profits, the board agreed that downloadable music was “just a temporary fad” and that the supermarket intrusion into their space was merely a “thorn in their side”. HMV’s leaders failed to anticipate the extent of the threat – or react to it – which eventually led to the closure of the business.
To develop the skill of Anticipation strategic leaders should keep an ear to the ground, listen to customers and stay abreast of ambiguous changes that could become real threats.

Strategic thinkers question the status quo and general assumptions. They solicit diverse views as part of their decision-making process and display an open mind to unorthodox thinking. The inventor and industrial designer, James Dyson, developed breakthrough products by being prepared to challenge accepted technological thinking and assumptions. By having an attitude of constructive discontent to everyday challenges such as bag clogging in vacuum cleaners he was able to develop is “Dual Cyclone” technology and subsequently overtake the sales of conventional vacuum cleaner companies in the UK.
To develop the skill of Challenge strategic leaders adopt failsafe problem analysis techniques and they encourage open forum discussions that can challenge conventional thinking.

Leaders who anticipate and challenge inevitably collect data that can be complex or conflicting. That’s why the best ones are also able to interpret. They recognise patterns, see through ambiguity and seek new insights. Finland’s former president, J. K. Paasikivi was fond of saying that wisdom begins by recognizing the facts and then “re-cognizing,” or rethinking, them to expose their hidden implications.
To develop the skill of Interpretation when considering ambiguous information, list at least three possible explanations for what you’re observing and invite perspectives from diverse stakeholders.

In disruptive times strategic leaders may have to make tough calls with incomplete information, and often they must do so quickly. But strategic thinkers insist on multiple options at the outset and don’t get prematurely locked into simplistic go/no-go choices. They don’t shoot from the hip but follow a disciplined process that balances rigour with speed, considers the trade-offs involved, and takes both short- and long-term goals into account. In the end, strategic leaders must have the courage of their convictions—informed by a robust decision process.
To develop the skill of Decision-Making constantly ask yourself and others, “What other options do we have?” Divide big decisions into pieces to understand component parts and better see unintended consequences.

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