A strategic leader understands his or her company’s mission, possesses a vision and a plan for realizing it, and can execute.
In its simplest form, a strategy is a roadmap of specific steps or actions that will take you from your current state to your desired future state. The further out your vision takes you, the more difficult it is to contemplate the various aspects of that roadmap and, therefore, the more strategic it must be. Yet being strategic is actually pretty straight forward. It is a step in a process. It’s not about sitting in an ivory tower and thinking big, crazy ideas. And it’s not a personal characteristic like being tall or having a fun personality. Being strategic is an action, not a state of being. In fact, I don’t think that you should ever say someone is strategic; I think that you can simply say that you are being strategic, which is to say that you are actively engaged in executing this process.
I believe that anyone can be strategic. It is simply a matter of choosing to explicitly go through this process. Ask yourself, What is my purpose? Why am I here? What value do I provide and to whom? From that context, where am I going? Where does my organization need to go to fulfill that purpose? With that destination in mind, what do I need to be doing to get there? What will it require? That’s being strategic. And it doesn’t require a crystal ball. However, there is one more question you must ask yourself if you want to be a strategic leader.
Can You Execute?
A strategy is worthless if it does not get executed. A strategy fails if it does not lead you to the vision that it was designed to realize. To be strategic is to be focused on realizing that vision. It’s not about “thinking outside of the box” or being a “big idea person” unless that type of freewheeling, open thinking is required to help you reach your vision. Most of the time, though, it isn’t. In most cases, the most powerful strategies are, in fact, the simplest. They are not elaborate, intricate plans that require everything to go just right in order to succeed. The most powerful strategies are often the simplest because the simplest strategies are the ones most likely to be flawlessly executed.
If you cannot connect the dots between the “what” of a strategy and the “how” of an execution plan, you will never be a strategic leader. You will simply be a person with a lot of really good ideas. But, frankly, we have enough of those people. What we need are leaders who can see the future, devise strategies to take us there and create simple execution plans that we all can use to get the job done. That’s what it means to be strategic. And that’s what we need in every IT leader as we enter this new era for IT organizations.
About the Author
Charles Araujo is the founder and CEO of The IT Transformation Institute, which is dedicated to helping IT leaders transform their teams into customer-focused, value-driven learning organizations. He is the author of the book The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change, is presently at work on two new books. Araujo is also the creator of DeepRoots, an organizational change methodology designed for IT teams. He frequently speaks and writes on a wide range of subjects related to his vision of the future of IT. You can follow him on Twitter as @charlesaraujo.
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