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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

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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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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