by Pete Tosh
Founder, The Focus Group

Georgia Employers’ Association and the Focus Group will present the first session of the popular five-part Managerial Leadership Skills Series on January 27. The following article by facilitator Pete Tosh provides background for the first session: Progressing from a Traditional Manager to a Strategic Leader.

What is strategic leadership?

If you ask twenty experts to define strategic leadership, you’ll probably get twenty different definitions. Here’s our definition.

Leadership Compass PhotoStrategic Leaders:

  • have different perspectives, priorities, styles, and scopes of work.
  • make significant contributions by regularly identifying new opportunities and being open to new ideas and collaborative relationships.
  • care enough to seek and utilize customer input to continuously improve their team’s performance.
  • weigh issues and priorities with a long-term focus, considering issues of competitive advantage and lasting benefits to their organization.

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, top managers and HR executives emphasize the need to escape traditional management styles. They’re seeking strategic leaders with a vision for their career and for their function in the organization. At the same time, most supervisors and managers want to make a more strategic contribution to their organization. They recognize that higher levels of contribution and impact are good for their careers.

Since there is strong agreement on the need for strategic leadership, why don’t we see more of it in the workplace?

3 Step Process

There’s not much value in simply hoping for a change in approach to leadership. For both individuals and organizations, the move towards a new form of leadership must be intentional. Strategic leadership can be learned and traditional managers can become more strategic by utilizing proven methods and tools.

We’ve seen demonstrated success when managers are trained to apply a three step process:

Step One – Understand Where Your Team is Now

Defining the starting point involves documentation of the primary customer, key products, and the service and value that the customer receives. SWOT/Situational analyses identify current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and that limit or enable strategic growth.

Step Two – Determine Where You Want Your Team to Go

This step utilizes input data from customers and analytical methods to create a vision and to chart a course for strategic action. Customer input data is generated from surveys, focus groups, and advisory board feedback. An Importance/Performance matrix can help to identify priorities and opportunities for improvement. The vision and goals are customer-centric, focused on the products and services that are most valued and most memorable for the customers.

Step Three – Sustaining Strategic Improvement

Strategic improvement in performance isn’t a one-time occurrence. Ongoing improvement requires input from the team, involvement and commitment to the new plan. Resistance to change and complacency must be addressed and overcome to create the enthusiasm needed for continuous improvement.

Benefits to the Organization and to Your Career

Success sign artWhile traditional managers continue to process transactions and follow the accepted routines, Strategic Leaders deliver preferred outcomes as they prioritize customer-focused strategies for their teams. Strategic Leadership generates profit and growth for the organization while also providing team members with a greater sense of contribution.

There are huge career benefits to traditional managers who learn to think and act strategically. You may have the technical skills required for the job, but it’s the strategic skills that will enable you to innovate, to become more responsive to customer needs, and to intentionally move your company and your career forward into new opportunities.

If you’d like to learn more about strategic leadership, you’ll want to attend Progressing from a Traditional Manager to a Strategic Leader, the first workshop in Georgia Employers’ Association’s 2017 Managerial Leadership Series.  It’s a half-day session, scheduled from 9 AM to 12 PM on January 27 in Macon. Click the link to learn more about the workshop series or watch the short video below for an overview of all five workshops and reasons you’ll want to attend.