Strategy is what makes your executive decision making valuable

Everything starts from the mind. Without thought nothing can actually take place. But that doesn’t make every action equal in value. When we talk about strategy and tactics in business, most business executives use the two terms interchangeably. The argument goes that tactics are strategy and action is strategic.

Yet with only a fraction of employees understanding a company’s strategy and direction we usually end up with CEOs and executive leaders complaining that “employees don’t do what they are supposed to do”. Right there is the disconnect between the “head” and the “body” the brains of an organization and its executive branch.

Leadership requires a shot in the dark based upon faith and driven by conviction.

Strategic thinking is not planning (that’s tactics), it’s not action (that’s operation), it’s not even costing (that’s bottom line optimization). Strategic thinking is direction. It’s vision that takes into account all the variables that cannot be controlled and makes a decision that will place the organization at a point in the future.

That’s the scary part.

Career executives and CEOs hate uncertainty. They hate dealing with things they can’t control. It makes them feel uncomfortable. So they do what is instinctively justifiable: they plan based upon what they know, they project bottom line increments based upon short-term extrapolation and real-time assumptions. They plan current operations looking for streamline gains. They position the company for better short-term reaction to events. They, in short, do everything but what they are really being paid to do: to lead.

Leadership requires a shot in the dark based upon faith and driven by conviction.

Faith and conviction are wooly words. They conjure up High School pep-talks on the parade ground. So let’s change “faith” into confidence and “conviction” into mission. Then the sentence above becomes: “Leadership requires a shot in the dark based upon confidence and driven by mission.”

It’s far more palatable. Confidence suggests that a business (and its leaders) know what it is the business does and how it does it. Mission suggests they know why it does it (and it is never just to make money – that’s like saying we are all on this planet so we can breathe oxygen).

Strategy is what gives your executive decision making real value. 

When executive decision making begins to look at the factors that cannot be controlled and the unknown, unquantifiable variables that might exist through the lens of “Confidence” and “Mission” reality changes. The course of the company changes. Its direction changes. The executive decisions being made change.

Everything becomes different.

Leaders Who Are Different

This is what leaders who truly understand their role do:

  • They read (because that’s how they learn to access perspectives and information that break them free from their personal filter bubble)
  • They develop a social network of contacts (because at a personal level the conversations that take place along it do exactly the same thing as deep reading)
  • They attend industry events (and talk to their peers)
  • They carry out regular SWOT analysis (and think about what it is they might be missing)
  • They bring in expertise (they talk to consultants, mentors, industry thought leaders to further deepen points 1 and 2 above)
  • They talk to their staff (they listen to the many viewpoints, opinions, suggestions and ideas of the people on the ground)

These are sniper-training skills: intelligence gathering, confirmation, inference, projection, cross-referencing and support.

Business leaders and executives who fail to step outside their comfort zone and understands their true role are only one decision away from disaster. What’s more they never see it coming. Their comfort-zone thinking has inoculated them to perceiving the risks lying ahead.

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