Five Questions Every Strategic Leader Needs to Answer

As leaders we wake up every morning and wonder if we are making a difference? The truth is, for many of us, we are not. We spend our days fighting fires instead of developing forever solutions, more time telling and less time guiding and certain we can’t miss a day of work.

What does leadership look like?

Over the years, I have consulted for, interviewed and listened to great leaders from all sizes and types of organizations talk about how to lead. While styles vary, common themes emerge.

Along the way, I have picked up some great questions that these leaders have used to challenge their organizations, and themselves. The following questions are top-of-mind for great leaders–and more importantly, they know the answers.

Can you answer these questions for your business?

If your organization closed its doors, would your customers miss you (or would they just buy from someone else without skipping a beat)? How can you make your company irreplaceable?

If you left the business today, could the organization move forward without missing a beat? 

Unfortunately for Starbucks, Howard Schultz had to return to “right” Starbucks performance. The vision seemed to disappear when he left. Leaders must integrate the mission and culture into the company’s operating system. Have you accomplished that and if not, what must you do?

When you face adversity do you ask how you can harness the hardship to drive growth?

How can you use it to make the organization stronger? What innovation does it foster that is sustainable over time and saves money?

The Dwyer Group, a branded service company franchise group, did that when they invented an online scheduling system that allows the customer to choose their service appointment times online and receive a picture of the scheduled technician coming to their home. It saved them money and improved customer satisfaction. Embrace it as an opportunity to make the organization stronger; don’t try to “wait it out”.

How do we stay connected with the market place so we can anticipate its needs? 

Are you one of the target market yourself, like Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards; do you do surveys regularly; do you have customer advisory boards? Whatever your method be sure you KNOW what customers’ needs and pet peeves are –not just THINK you know. What would work best for your company?

 What is the desired culture of the company and what is the best way to engage and motivate employees to live it every day?

Great leaders truly believe people are their best asset and they are responsible for the “return”–competence, productivity, and innovation. In fact, more than ever the uniqueness of the collective brain trust IS one of the most important competitive advantages of any company–not what you do but how you do it.

Zappos sells shoes; so why is it growing so much faster than the industry? What is your company’s culture and what are you doing so that employees live it and thrive within it every day.

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