L.I.D.S – The Four Leadership Roles of the Strategic Program Manager

There are four leadership roles that I have found to be useful energizing a strategic initiative. I organized them into the LIDS acronym to help you remember them: story, learning, integration, and decisions. Each of these roles provides a unique and valuable perspective that facilitates turning vision into results.

Strategic initiatives are a unique subset of all programs characterized by high ambiguity and the intention to transform the organization’s business model.  The program manager of a strategic initiative does more than simply manage a portfolio of projects; he/she must tap into an unconventional set of leadership ideas.  The four LIDS roles provide helpful insights.

Chief Storyteller

Stories are a universally understood and appealing method for organizing thinking and persuading others. You can weave a lot of information into the telling AND you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy. Peter Guber (former CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group) explains,

“Storytelling can be used to get people’s help in carrying out your goals and ultimately to inspire business success. For the leader, storytelling is action oriented, a force for turning dreams into goals and then into results.”

Chief Learning Officer

This role is concerned with identifying unknowns and taking action to fill knowledge gaps, and transferring learning across the team (One definition of teams is that they are groups of people who learn together). The job of the leader is to create a constructive environment for learning. The mantra is this: the faster that the team can identify unknowns, the faster the program will progress.

As I have discussed in other posts, strategic thinking is largely about the mastery of ambiguity.  People avoid ambiguity, and substitute assumptions for asking questions. I have been successful with getting teams unstuck with this question,

What don’t we know, and how can we find it out?

Chief Integration Officer

Leaders fit the strategic initiative and its outcomes within the larger organizational, political, and social context. The leader needs have the capability to see the components as well as the unified whole. In this role, you are continually looking for connections and relationships between elements. You need to relentlessly focus on the fit and function of all elements of the program. Here is a tip,

Pay attention to interfaces because most failure occurs at the interface.  Interfaces are not readily apparent and out of most people’s comfort zone.

Chief Decision Architect

This role is concerned with the quality of decision making in the execution of the strategic initiative. The leader’s guiding principle as Chief Decision Architect is this simple guiding principle: Fast and effective decisions lead to fast and quality results.

How can we speed up decisions? One suggestion is to place “decisions to be made” at the top of your meeting agenda.

Application of the Four LIDS Roles to Interpreting Strategy Documents

I have written a series of articles on how to interpret strategy documents.  You could also use each of the four LIDS perspectives to enhance the understanding. For example,

  • You could see the new strategy and vision as part of a longer narrative arc for the organization.  Some values and capabilities with remain, but others will propel the story forward.
  • The document contains much information that needs to be learned.  However, it is not complete and there are many more unknowns that you need to systematically discover.
  • Strategies are composed of different levels of functional, business, and enterprise strategies. There are often several portfolios.  All will benefit from an integrated view.
  • Strategy formulation represents decisions and commitments, but there are considerably more decisions that have to be made in execution.

Here is another application of the L.I.D.S. leadership roles. Suppose a program manager is floundering. How could each role provide useful perspectives?

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About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
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13 Responses to L.I.D.S – The Four Leadership Roles of the Strategic Program Manager

  1. Pingback: Does Your Strategic Initiative Need a Fresh Perspective? | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  2. Greg has some good insights. One question he may want to discuss is “How do we know what we don’t know so we can learn what we don’t know (Chief Learning Officer)?” I’m also of the opinion that we sometimes don’t have all the details to make a decision, but have to make it anyway. I’ve done that at work and got crucified once (terminated), but did it a few more times with great success. So, is there anymore criteria to use for decision making? These ideas are similar to the article I read by McKasky in the 1970’s regarding “Planning by Thrusts vs Planning by Direction.”

    • Greg Githens says:

      David, you’re right in that it is important to make a stab at “what you don’t know” and fill those gaps. I have three other posts on Strategic Thinking as it applies to ambiguity, with more writing to come. One future post is going to be on the difference between ambiguity and uncertainty. You mention not having all the details, and that is an issue of uncertainty (getting answers to explicit questions). To manage around/through ambiguity you need to step back and say, “Am I asking the right questions?”

      Too, to say that we have “Mastery” of a topic does not mean that we know everything that could be known, but rather a person has developed a sense of timing that allows him/her to know whether to hold or go in the face of limited information.

      Thank you for the reference to the McKasky article; I will look for a copy of it.

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