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Published on October 29, 2020

What Is Strategic Leadership And How to Be a Strategic Leader

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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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 October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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