Are You a Strategic Leader?

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Before you automatically hit the “yes” button, you might want to ask yourself if you can deliver in three key areas.

Do you know anyone in business that has jumped on the strategic-leader bandwagon? Someone who’s quick to tell you how he or she is a strategic thinker? You know the type, lots of big ideas, lots of talk, but very little to show in terms of actually accomplishing anything. You probably know several given the overcrowded state of that particular bandwagon. Everyone, it seems, wants to be seen as a strategic.

The problem, according to a CIO Insight article by Charles Araujo, founder and CEO of The IT Transformation Institute, is that in our business culture, being perceived as strategic has taken on nearly mythic importance. If you’re not “strategic,” you risk becoming invisible. Don’t misunderstand; we need strategic business leaders desperately. But there seems to be considerable confusion about what it really takes to be one.

In order to be a true strategic leader, you need to deliver in three critical areas.

Know Your Mission
Before strategy ever enters into the equation, you must understand your mission. Don’t get caught up in the overblown, MBA-type of mission statements.  Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is simply your professional purpose. What do you and your company exist to do and for whom? “It is only in the context of understanding your mission, and the mission of your organization, that you can begin to be strategic,” said Araujo.

A simple mission is often the most powerful one. Fully understanding who and why you serve, and how to provide value to your customers is the foundation from which strategic leadership springs.

Have a Vision

Once you grasp your mission, you need picture of what your goal will look like at a particular point in the future. The strategic part comes into play when you begin taking action that moves you from where you are now to that future state you envision. As Araujo states, “When you can clearly articulate your vision, it starts to become real and tangible … and what you must do to realize that vision starts to become clearer and clearer.”

Get it Done

You have a full grasp of your mission, and your vision is crystal clear. If you want to be a strategic leader, you must answer this question honestly: Can you execute on your vision? The strategy is the blueprint of steps that takes you from mission (Point A) to vision (Point B). If you can’t put your plan into action, then all you’re left with is a worthless strategy.

Don’t think that you have to come up with some kind of complex action plan that no one has ever imagined. “The most powerful strategies are often the simplest, because the simplest strategies are the ones most likely to be flawlessly executed,” says Araujo.

Do you want to lead strategically? Ask and answer three questions: why am I here; where am I going; what do I need to do to get there. If you go through this process of self-examination, you are capable of becoming a strategic leader.

Now, go do it.

Adapted from Three Questions For Strategic Leaders by Charles Araujo at CIO Insight. Follow CIO Insight on Twitter