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Published on October 29, 2020

What Is Strategic Leadership And How to Be a Strategic Leader

What Is Strategic Leadership And How to Be a Strategic Leader

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.

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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:

Google

According to CNBC,[1]

“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.

Amazon

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,[2]

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“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.”[3]

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.

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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.

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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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Colleen Batchelder

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Strategist | Executive Coach | Dr. Batchelder teaches business leaders how to create corporations where Millennials want to work.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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