Maintaining a Strategic Posture
Lessons in Leadership
Naseem Zafar Iqbal
Leaders take on a certain strategic posture to lead an organization effectively. It is part of the broader strategic planning process, when leaders collaborate to develop the vision, goals and strategies for a business in the foreseeable future.
One might wonder, what is the difference between strategic thinking and strategic posture?
- Strategic thinking is about long-term planning, which includes developing a plan with a vision statement in mind before you get into the details of execution. It guides your way in uncertainty. When you maintain your strategic posture it helps in two things; firstly it helps you focus on strategic issues and simultaneously it helps you in developing the leadership pipeline down below.
- Strategic posture focuses on the execution of a strategic plan. Some people are highly skilled at developing a strategic plan but at the time of execution they get into the nitty gritty. As leaders we need to be able to stay away from those nitty gritty and maintain a strategic posture ourselves. Subsequently, we have to facilitate others in executing the plan.
There are two advantages of maintaining a strategic posture:
- You keep reevaluating your strategic plans as you are thinking in terms of broader picture
- You help foster team development
There are two arms of strategic posture:
- Relationship building: a strategic leader focuses on developing relationships both within the organization and outside
- Decision-making: how deeply a strategic leader is involved in the decision-making process
In order to implement these elements, you need to use two tools effectively:
- Questioning techniques
- Listening skills
Using these two tools, the ultimate intent is to coach and develop people. While developing relationships, it is imperative to ask questions and listen to others to understand their feelings. It also helps in taking pulse of their emotions and understanding their perception of the environment.
As a result of questioning and listening effectively, you identify three important traits, which are necessary for developing relationships:
- Trust and trustworthiness:
You demonstrate your trust in your teams’ intention and potential to deliver desired results. Additionally, you have to prove yourself as trustworthy person through your actions and behavior. Trust is a mutual thing. You cannot demand trust, you have to win the trust of your team. Trust is also the first element in any relationship. To a large extent you have to remain transparent with your team, in terms of planning, and accountability. You should be able to have candid conversations where you give open feedback.
- Feelings and emotions:
While leaders focus largely on thinking for making decisions but since they are also dealing with people, they need to give a lot of value to feelings. People need to feel understood if we want them to give their best. Empathy goes a long way as a leader however, you also have to strike a balance between thinking and feeling element in your leadership style.
- Bringing people together:
As leaders, one of the key roles is to develop relationships one on one with your team and also among your team. You need to foster a sense of connectedness among the team, to enable them to function interpedently as a unified whole.
When it comes to decision making, two things are important.
- Interpreting the data: There is past data, present data, but strategic thinkers deal with leading data. In a wilderness scenario, there is immense ambiguity, and so is in a corporate environment. To clarify the mists of uncertainty, you need to ask the right questions and gather data from external sources. You should then verify the data from three other sources. After that you decipher it and develop insights about the data in order to align your goals accordingly.
- Risk management: You need to have a mindset that is continuously evaluating in the long-term risk, asking what can possibly go wrong. Assess risks and gaining further insights is crucial to decision making.
Both relationship building and decision making helps us in handling complexities. Life is complex and ultimately, all decision making is complex as multiple variables are often at play. In order to handle complexity, you need to be able to manage your emotions. You have to be open minded and listen to your team. With complexity comes rigor and to thrive in that pressure requires emotional maturity. Leaders manage their and others’ emotions well.
Emotional maturity: the anchor of the leader
A hallmark trait of a leader is to be mature enough to evaluate his/her decision making process and pattern. He/she must be able to improvise along the way as the need and situation changes. Sometimes autocratic style may work, sometimes democratic, and yet at times consensus might be the better option. Having the strength to see a flawed process and not repeating old ways must be present in a leader in order to succeed.
As leaders you need to have the courage and mindset to embark on a journey which takes you through the fog.