What responsibilities does a strategic leader own?

As leaders of our companies, the buck stops with us. Yet clearly, nothing would happen if we couldn’t delegate. So how do we decide how to allocate our precious time? In fact, statistics say that executives are making more decisions (since we are running leaner) and have less time to do so (an image of a whac-a-mole video game comes to mind for some reason).  Does that sound familiar?

If so, as strategic leaders who are accountable for our companies future not just it’s performance this week, where do we focus our time and energy? How do we find the balance between what we “have” to do to keep the engine running (management) and how to make the engine more productive (leadership)? Too many of you that I have spoken with feel you are losing the fight to putting out fires with no time to make tomorrow better than yesterday.

So what must we be accountable for?

1. Focus the right amount of time on leadership. The challenge is defining how much time that is. No one likes the answer “it depends” but it really does depend on the situation you find yourself in. Today, strategy remains more dynamic and is not a once- every-few-years endeavor. If we had a bell curve it is likely that somewhere between 25-40% of your time should be on tomorrow (as opposed to today) and is in the center of the curve and the extremes range higher and lower. Not sure where you should be as a leader? Just ask; happy to help you figure it out. The better your business is and the more consistent your market the likelihood that you are on the lower side; the greater the fires or the more movement in your industry, more time is needed to get strategy right (you might be surprised how many of the fires you fight now would be put out by good strategy).

2.  Ask the right questions. Be sure recommendations from others in your company are well grounded in market place data (the one we operate in today not yesterday), are realistic for the resource level available, are consistent with strategy and meet financial hurdles. Be sure it is not perpetuation of status quo or copying competition; the more facts you have the better your decisions get.

3. Allocate resources consistent with strategy. One practical definition of strategy is “how you spend your money”. After all, doesn’t it reflect your priorities? Not if you just hand out the same amount as last year or do “across the board” increases/decreases.  If you are planning on achieving your goals you have to allocate resources accordingly.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. One great leader I admire, Joe Scarlett, retired CEO/Chairman of Tractor Supply, suggests that leaders must be broken records. Yes, you get tired of saying it but it is part of the leadership manifesto that it is your job to be sure everyone hears it, understands it, internalizes and acts on it. How much communication do you think is necessary. A lot! Even more than you think!

Find out even more information on what strategic leaders do here.


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