Strategic Leadership in Business

The Indian Optician, December, 2008

Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long & hard the road maybe; for without victory there is no survival …..

Winston Churchill

The only thing one really needs to decide is, what ‘Victory’ means to him/her. What is the ‘Desire’ one has, that one wants to be fulfilled ….. the point is that it is important to have ‘A Clarity of Purpose’.

Strategy has its origins in military science, where it refers to the large scale plan for how the generals intend to fight & win a war. Strategy makes the difference between victory & defeat & in a business context, between success & failure of a business. The prime purpose of having a strategy is to ‘Win’ !! It involves having an understanding of how we will play the game differently from or better than others ?!

The starting point towards building a Strategy, be it business or military or one’s personal life, is to understand the current state. This is like a recce of the battle ground & involves scanning the environment, competition, industry dynamics, customers, trends & own realities. At this stage some very tough questions must be asked & answered honestly….. facing The Brutal Facts so that the current reality is absolutely clear.

This allows availability of sound & reliable information. Skipping this step can be dangerous. However, the other extreme is Analysis Paralysis & one must ensure that a balance is struck between quantity & quality of data vs time taken & actionability. A good balance ensures timely, efficient & effective strategic decisions.

While a lot of information & data that is gathered definitely helps in making good choices, having done all the rational & logical analysis (sometimes all data may not be available & one should work with intelligent assumptions for the balance), experienced & seasoned Strategic Leadership also involves stepping back & taking an intuitive look at everything before the final decision ….. a holistic, experience, gut based vetting ….. having studied everything as a science, practicing Strategic Leadership gracefully as an Art form ….. !!

Resources are always scarce in business & hence prioritising & allocating these scarce resources amongst unlimited possible activities/areas, is the key to building Strategic Leadership, which is about making the most intelligent choices ….. those that will help us use our limited resources to win the war for Value Creation for The Customer & for Maximizing Returns. It is about making choices about The Right Things (which locations, customers, products, services etc.) and The Right Ways (how to create value for the customer, how to deliver service, how to align resources etc.) ….. as in a game of chess, which is also to be won with limited resources at one’s command.

Having looked at the current & desired states & having prioritised allocation of resources, there has to be an alignment in all areas of the business for most effective results. The First & Most Important part of this alignment is having The Right People & Developing, Training & Grooming them well, followed by processes, measurement of results & rewards & incentives

This making of choices, alongwith Leadership Effectiveness is the MOST CRUCIAL for SUCCESS in Business, in War or in Life !! Effective Strategic Leadership involves Flexibility in Thinking, Execution Excellence, Infectious Enthusiasm, Strong Networks, Maturity, Inner Strength & building very strong values in the group.

Most importantly it is to ensure that bridges are built into the future, for sustained Competitive Advantage  ….. so that many generations can cross over ….. as did Krishna, Gandhi & many more !!

JP Singh

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