I sat on a committee awhile back with a group of men and women all of whom held positions of leadership in their organizations. I struck up a conversation with one of the members who was freshly unemployed.
Curious, I asked him about the circumstances around his dismissal from his role as CEO. He shared how he did all he could to save the company but unfortunately couldn’t it ended up into receivership. This, I thought was even more curious so I dug a bit deeper and asked him what transpired to have caused such an unfortunate outcome.
He told a story that I have heard from too many leaders too often. The story is about how they and their employees did everything operationally speaking but couldn’t stave off the inevitable. I held the space kept silent. I was listening for something that, at that time in point he was not saying.
So I asked outright what were the signs 3-5 years prior? What did you notice? What did you see? What were the shifts in the state of the business? What sorts of adjustments were made? I got the usual answers didn’t see anything. It all kind of crept up on him. I am now thinking to myself What?! are you for real???
The first signs of strategic failure often starts with you the leader. You lose yourself in the miry grips of the day-to-day operations. Sometimes your sleeves are rolled up higher than your direct reports’ and you are busy down in the trenches digging away with your team. Or, are so mired down in the jungle sharpening machetes and chopping away with the team. This is admirable in the event of a crisis situation. Downright destructive if done on a daily basis.
If you are busy digging trenches with the team to keep the enemy out, who is looking out ahead for the enemy? Who is studying the way the wind has shifted, and deciding if it has shifted in favour or against your company? Who is looking ahead to take the pulse of your customers? Are they getting ready to vote against you and your company with their wallets?
- You are no longer visionary but instead developed a myopic view of the business and the needs of your people
- You fail to make sure your team has all the resources it needs to get the job done
- Fail to communicate clearly to your team the strategic priorities
- Fail to paint the picture of what it would look when your team achieves the strategic priorities
Too many leaders fail to deliver where they most need to and consequently end up not being clear on exactly what is their winning aspiration. The power behind leading a successful corporation is to embrace the reality that strategy and execution must be married and become one. Leaders simply do not have the luxury of spending huge amounts of time and money on strategic plans alone they must execute as the strategize!
Do keep your leadership skills sharp by constantly keeping an eye on the horizon. Look ahead often and see what is really there, not what you wish is there!