Leadership Thoughts | Issue #102
Whenever I contemplate "good intentions," I can almost hear my mother's voice echoing in my head – The road to hell is paved with good intentions! This aphorism can be applied to virtually any situation in life, especially leadership. Leaders must go beyond simply wanting to do good; they must act upon their good intentions. I recently read an article and watched a video that inspired me to think more deeply about intentions, strategy, and leadership.
Strategic planning can lead to powerful mission statements, insights into the values of an organization, and even clear goals. Every organization I've worked with or for had a plan for success—many even had a process for evaluating their plans. Most leaders think they can just execute their strategy and hit the mark. From my experience, this is rarely the case. Leaders must act and look ahead to reach the goals they have set in the plan.
This edition of Leadership Thoughts examines the clear-cut subtleties between strategic planning and leadership. To ascertain whether or not my efforts were fruitful, I urge you to read the article, view the accompanying video, and reflect on your conclusions.
Roger Martin | Harvard Business Review
"Not knowing for sure isn't bad management. It's great leadership."
Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is widely recognized as a thought leader on strategy. According to Martin, traditional strategic planning has little to do with actual strategy. Planning requires a list of tasks and the assurance of a pre-defined outcome. It is a secure, safe process in which items can be checked off. On the other hand, strategy entails risk. It is based on hypotheses and has an unpredictable result. The success of a strategy cannot be proven in advance—all we can do is take adequate steps in the hope that our efforts will pay off.
Dimitri Glazkov, January 30, 2023
Dimitri Glazkov defines being strategic as making choices that produce the desired outcomes. He outlines the process in five steps:
Start with the intention— "Where do we intend to go?"
Diagnose the problem – "How will we get there?"
Develop an approach – "How will we do it?"
Act – "What are the outcomes?"
Appraise if the outcomes match the intentions – "What did we miss?"
At each stage of the process, our strategy and intentions must align. We must also remember that a strategy is not a plan but a concept. A strategist is someone who plans actions, but they do not craft a strategy alone; it takes the work of a team to do so. The strategist looks at the strategy as a theory and attempts to bridge the gap between what was intended and what has occurred. They use a Socratic approach to engage the organization's personnel in thoughtful examination and reflection on their actions.
The Link between Resources and Leadership
Great leaders understand how to build an effective strategy. They can identify when it's best to utilize both a plan and a strategy, know their intentions, and handle the challenges that come with devising and following a strategy. Furthermore, good strategists have keen insight and the ability to remain flexible in their techniques yet steadfast in their objectives.
I'd like to highlight this point through an allegory. We tend to forget the true purpose of our actions when we don't understand what we see.
The two young fish glided through the water when passed by an elder fish who said, "Good morning, lads. How's the water?" After a moment or two, one of the young ones turns to the other and asks, "What is water?".
The strategist must remember to ask those questions that will allow people to comprehend the reality of the situation. It is easy to become absorbed and never understand what results we are getting that correspond with our original plan.
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