Strategic Leadership : The Essential Skills — Lloyd Emerson Johnson

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4 min readJul 9, 2022
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A business is not being competitive if it undertakes the same activities and grows at the same pace as its competitors. It must create something new, and this is why strategic intuition is needed.
― Paul A. Sacco, Strategy Quest: The Executive Guide to Finding Business Opportunities

Several challenges emerge in companies due to leadership gap i.e. when the company’s top executive are not acting strategically. Fortunately, companies can build and develop a strong leadership from within. This has been explained in an article published by Paul J. H. Schoemaker, Steve Krupp, and Samantha Howland titled “Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills”. They emphasized on certain principles and skills which can help unlock potential strategic leadership in a company. As a strategic advisor and an international leader, this article resonated with me.

According to the authors, these skills mentioned below are present in an adaptive strategic leader i.e. “someone who is both resolute and flexible, persistent in the face of setbacks but also able to react strategically to environmental shifts”.

1. Anticipate

Several organizations and leaders are poor at detecting risks, threats and opportunities regarding their business. For example, “lego management missed the electronic revolution in toys and gaming”. However, strategic leaders are always on the look-out are vigilant and use their ability to anticipate by scanning the environment for any change.

In order to improve one’s ability to anticipate, one can –

“Talk to your customers, suppliers, and other partners to understand their challenges.

Conduct market research and business simulations to understand competitors’ perspectives, gauge their likely reactions to new initiatives or products, and predict potential disruptive offerings.

Use scenario planning to imagine various futures and prepare for the unexpected.”

2. Challenge

Strategic advisors examine and challenges ones assumption from different points of view. Only after careful examination and analysis do they take a decision. This ability can be improved by focusing and diverting attention to the root of the problem rather than the symptoms. For example, “Apply the “five whys” of Sakichi Toyoda, Toyota’s founder. (“Product returns increased 5% this month.” “Why?” “Because the product intermittently malfunctions.” “Why?” And so on.)

3. Interpret

The best leaders are able to interpret; rather than simply seeing or hearing what you expect, they syntheize all the information they have. They should be able to “recognize patterns, push through ambiguity, and seek new insights”.

4. Decide

In uncertain times, decision makers may have to make tough calls with incomplete information, and often they must do so quickly. But strategic thinkers insist on multiple options at the outset and don’t get prematurely locked into simplistic go/no-go choices. They don’t shoot from the hip but follow a disciplined process that balances rigor with speed, considers the trade-offs involved, and takes both short- and long-term goals into account. In the end, strategic leaders must have the courage of their convictions — informed by a robust decision process.”

5. Align

Strategic leaders must be adept at finding common ground and achieving buy-in among stakeholders who have disparate views and agendas. This requires active outreach. Success depends on proactive communication, trust building, and frequent engagement.

6. Learn

One of the most important aspects of a strategic leader is learning. “They promote a culture of inquiry, and they search for the lessons in both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. They study failures — their own and their teams’ — in an open, constructive way to find the hidden lessons.

You can read the original article here.

About Lloyd: Lloyd Emerson Johnson is a results-oriented strategic advisor. With over 35 years of international, broad-based experience, Lloyd considers various disciplines in his approach to management and board governance. Through effectively evaluating all corners of a business, Lloyd Johnson has reinvented the roles of a strategic partner and stakeholder champion. He is a creative visionary who transforms businesses to be effective throughout all of their operations and finances. The pragmatic leader specializes in risk management and ensuring that businesses are prepared for uncertain circumstances.

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