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Leadership for Strategy Execution

The Tripod of Leadership

  The company that becomes the intellectual leader is the one that sets the direction of the industry itself, through Conceptual Innovation - a new way to think about a market , its products, and customer desires. 

 Each of these companies came forth with a new vision of the product and how the customer wanted to use it. Their vision was radically different from established tenants and practices.

  Next is Capability Leadership. It is a matter of ability as opposed to vision. The capability leader of an industry is company that develops an edge in product design, manufacturing, or marketing. That edge in turn, becomes the standard by which all competitors are measured. The capability leader is the company all competitors strive to match. It is the Company you look at when you are benchmarking your own company’s capabilities.

 The third aspect of leadership is Results Leadership. It is the art of putting all elements of vision and capability together to produce superior results on the bottom-line  market share, economic profitability and financial balance. It is the most visible aspect of leadership and probably the most tangible rewarding.

 


Visionary and Effective Leadership is a prerequisite for successfully converting strategic intent into breakthrough performance results.


 

Excerpt from "Leadership for Strategy Execution", by Mark B. Hefner, Vice President - Palladium Group Inc.

 

Based on Palladium observations of CEOs and business unit heads, here are the top ten attributes demonstrated by leaders who have successfully executed strategy and realized sustainable breakthrough results:

 

1. Visionary and effective leaders view strategy execution as their job.

 On the surface this may not sound like anything new. Most CEOs know that strategy is part of their job. However, all too often their involvement is limited to developing a strategy and then delegating its implementation. Effective leaders of strategy execution take a significantly more hands on approach. The CEOs who lead successfully are deeply involved with developing the strategy as well as executing it. They see it as their job to actively lead and manage throughout each step of strategy execution, day after day, month after month, year after year. They recognize that It is not a once a year event but a daily responsibility.

 

2. Visionary and effective leaders have a keen understanding of the process of change.

 They understand the human dynamics of change. Their philosophy is “to execute strategy is to manage change”. These leaders know how to create a sense of urgency and are able to build a  compelling case for change. They understand how to create a motivating and shared vision for the future of their organization and how to ensure that their strategic intent is clear and well understood throughout the organization. They are adept at building commitment from the top down. And they understand how to lead people through difficult transitions, managing how change will impact all stakeholders (e.g., customers, shareholders, management, employees, suppliers, board of directors).

 

3. Visionary and effective leaders know how and when to push the leadership accelerator.

 These leaders understand that the amount of leadership energy required to execute an incremental change strategy is substantially less than that required to execute a transformational change strategy. They push the leadership accelerator and spend the right amount of time and energy leading execution when the degree of change required for success is high and their vision for the future requires a major departure from the status quo. They clearly recognize that the kind of leadership required to succeed at change is different and more demanding than that required  to lead during times of stability and status quo.

 

4. Visionary and effective leaders stay the course.

 They are undaunted in their focus and commitment to their strategies. They expect to run into staunch opposition, often by members of their own boards and management teams. Instead of capitulating or compromising, these leaders anticipate potential resistance and take proactive steps to engage and involve others to gain their support. They consistently demonstrate, publicly and privately, through their own words and actions their level of commitment to executing their strategy and achieving breakthrough results.

 

5. Visionary and effective leaders put a premium on communications to their people during transition.

 They know that communication is much more than sending an email or making a video. They are actively and personally involved in engaging stakeholders in different and compelling forms of communication to ensure they are enrolled in the strategy. They are adept at convincing people why the strategy is necessary, explaining what the strategy is and what it will accomplish and why they should care. They are clear that all stakeholders need to understand the strategy and their role in achieving and sustaining breakthrough results.

 

6. Visionary and effective leaders align, assign and hold accountable their direct reports to fulfill specific roles in strategy execution.

 These leaders are very clear about what they expect from their direct reports. They are not hesitant to back this up with reinforcement, both positive and negative. They insist that their direct reports do the same with their direct reports, cascading clarity about roles, expectations and strategic intent horizontally and vertically throughout the organization. In making assignments and setting expectations, they also make investments to prepare other leaders for their assigned roles. They invest in preparing them for change, foster teamwork, encourage new thinking, and require that people understand behaviors and results  that are expected, measured, and rewarded. They monitor the performance of leaders against expectations and are willing to make the difficult decisions when inevitably some leaders cannot succeed.

 

7. Visionary and effective leaders insist on following a proven strategy execution process.

Either through direct past experience or by observing others, they recognize that more organizations fail at executing strategy than succeed. They understand that shortcuts, while seductive, do not produce competitive advantage or breakthrough results that are sustainable over time. To increase their chances of success they employ proven processes to execute strategy. And they ensure and enforce the consistent application of these processes throughout the organization. They also clearly understand that executing strategy is not a one-time event but an organizational capability that can create competitive advantage. As a result they integrate the strategy execution process and capability into the culture of their organization.

 

8. Visionary and effective leaders understand the true cost of execution and they allocate and protect the resources required.

 They assign the best, most talented people within the organization to work as “change agents” to execute strategy. They establish teams of change agents to work with the leaders of the organization to coordinate, integrate, and facilitate strategy execution. They dedicate many of these change agents to this task full-time (e.g., Office of Strategy Management). They specifically allocate and protect the financial resources required for execution, often establishing a separate “strategy expenditures” (StratEx) line item within their budget and financial reporting. These leaders treat this as an investment with an expected return, not as an operating or capital expense.

 

9. Visionary and effective leaders make timely and difficult decisions based on factual information.

 They develop a streamlined governance process supported by regular management reviews and truthful reporting on the status of executing strategy. These leaders make decision rights very clear among the organizations leaders and change agents. They invest in developing business intelligence capabilities that provide factual information on key strategic performance indicators. They ensure that leaders and change agents make fast and often difficult decisions based upon that information. While collaborative in their own decision making style, they are clear that ultimately they are accountable for strategic decisions and expect full support for those decisions, even from dissenting executives.

 

10. Visionary and effective leaders are open to feedback and willing to change their minds and behaviors.

 Because of their commitment to executing strategy, they understand the importance  of receiving and acting upon feedback on how they are leading (or not). They encourage direct feedback and straight talk among and between all leaders and change agents so that ineffective and dysfunctional leadership behaviors are changed. They are continuous learners and are always honing their leadership skills, as well as that of others in the organization. They lead with not only their intellect but also with their heart.