Leadership: A Tool for Strategic Initiatives

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Leadership is an essential element for transforming vision into results. Leadership enables the two critical benefits of alignment and commitment. I assert that leadership is a tool, because

“Leadership causes results.”

As the following table shows, there is a linkage between leadership elements and organizational benefits. The left-hand column lists key elements of strategic initiatives, and the right column shows leadership attributes. Leaders have to consider a number of factors – and get them right – to be successful with a strategic initiative.

Strategic Initiatives involve: Leadership Functions
Stretch goals that require creativity and innovation Inspiring others to bring out the best of people’s energies
Confronting threats and harsh realities Showing courage: Bravery is needed to venture into the unknown. Truth telling is necessary revealing unpleasant information.
Working with vision, ill-defined problems and emerging opportunities Helping people to overcome ambiguity and develop common mental models of vision, metrics, and methods. Help define and make relevant the abstractions.
Gaining the support of important stakeholders that are external to the organization Reaching out, listening, and promoting compelling ideas. Cultivating personal relationships and making promises
Accountability for results Modeling and expecting integrity
Different points of view about the nature of the problem and the solution Sharing and building values and ideals

As I watch executives, I see that some “use” the leadership functions listed in the right column more skillfully than others. There is a direct correlation between the skill in the listed function and the quality of the result achieved.

Stated differently, leadership could be considered a means to an end.

What Tools Do

Consider: Tools help in the performance of a task; they are also a means to an end. Therefore, if leadership is a means to an end, and tools are a means to an end, a provocative question is:

Is Leadership a Tool?

My short answer: Of course leadership is a tool. It helps in achieving the expected result. A person is more likely to achieve the intended results of a strategic initiative with leadership than without it.

My Perspective

My Myers-Briggs is ENTJ type, and I value competencies, capabilities, capacities, skills, and ingenuity as they relate to performance. That’s just how I make sense of the world around me.

ENTJs are 5-12% of the population, and the other 8-95% of people would see leadership differently.

Other temperaments might see leadership in spiritual, nurturing, and sensible paradigms. For an example do the spiritual paradigm, check out the course description for an executive course called The Soul of Leadership (Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business). It declares that the learner will gain the “Understanding the soul as a confluence of contexts, meanings, relationships and archetypal themes.”

I can see that understanding relationships, context and meanings are important leadership ideals. But it doesn’t ignite my passions.

If I’m standing in front of the CEO, I’m sure that I want to talk about gaining results and not touchy-feely abstractions.

I want to get things done, and I want the tools that will help me.

So, do you think that calling leadership a tool soulless? Given a specific task or situation, can you choose to use or not use leadership?

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About Greg Githens

Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. a.k.a., The Strategic Thinking Coach. I'm a hands-on strategy & execution consultant with experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. I'm available for extended or short-term engagements. For an introduction to pragmatic tools that turns vision into results, attend my popular seminar, "Leading Strategic Initiatives (Program Management)."
This entry was posted in Competencies of Strategic Initiative Leaders and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Leadership: A Tool for Strategic Initiatives

  1. Pingback: Six Leadership Traits | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  2. Pingback: Incremental Benefits Delivery (Episode 42) | Leading Strategic Initiatives

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