Why do leaders of some organizations successfully execute strategies that lead to excellent business results while others fail to translate strategic intent into desired outcomes? The difference is in their collective ability to align and lead strategically.
We studied the differences between under-performing and superior-performing organizations as they worked to translate strategy into desired business results, and found that executives in superior-performing organizations made a clear connection between their business strategy and a leadership strategy.
Top-performing organizations had senior leadership alignment, and the senior teams understood they needed to invest in a robust leadership strategy if they were to successfully execute and refine their business strategy.
This recognition raises decisions about leadership development to the strategic level. When executives set strategy, they also took a hard look at the organization’s ability to implement those strategies — and created parallel processes to develop the skills and behaviors they needed to live up to their performance goals.
6 Things Executives with Leadership Alignment Do to Improve Business Performance
A solid strategy doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of organizations have a strategy that looks good on paper, but falls short or fails to deliver results.
Alignment and the collective ability to lead strategically are defining characteristics of executive teams in high-performing organizations. These executives:
- Invest significant time on questions related to strategic drivers coupled with powerful questions of leadership.
- Distinguish the periodic strategic planning process from leading strategically for ongoing organizational impact.
- Know that good strategic leadership at the organizational level is somewhat different from effective leadership by individuals scattered about the organization.
- Realize that when strategy lacks meaning for people, it’s unlikely that they will assimilate the essence of strategic directives and perform to their highest potential.
- Pay attention to leadership strategy along with the business strategy in order to reach their performance potential.
- Identify and focus on their most pressing leadership challenges and invest in developing the leadership capabilities to meet those challenges.
Individuals and teams enact strategic leadership when they address the challenges most relevant to their business and create the direction, alignment, and commitment needed to achieve the enduring performance potential of the organization.
But having a strategy is not enough.
Senior leadership alignment and strategic leadership is needed to achieve goals, drive performance, and align short-term action with long-term direction. Leaders face the challenge of getting everyone from the executive team to the front lines moving together in the right direction. Leaders’ effectiveness is helped — or hindered — by their ability to:
- Lead change. Leaders foresee changes to the business environment that will bring increased complexity.
- Shape culture. Leaders develop organizational cultures that elicit strong identification and a sense of belonging on the part of individuals.
- Leverage polarities. Leaders understand and leverage organizational priorities that may appear to be diametrically opposed, avoiding an “either/or” approach, they find “both/and” solutions.
- Span organizational boundaries. Leaders implement tactics to span organizational boundaries in order to facilitate interdependent decision-making and collaboration.
By gaining senior leadership alignment and implementing your leadership strategy, you can begin to unlock the inherent performance potential of your organization.
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4 Elements Needed for a Leadership Strategy Connected to Business Results
A leadership strategy goes much deeper than a generalized belief in developing leaders and organizational talent. There are 4 key elements of an effective leadership strategy — and none of them are simple, check-the-box steps. Executives in high-performing organizations will set a leadership strategy that:
- Identifies the critical drivers of organizational success. What’s absolutely essential for leaders of the organization to accomplish in order to successfully execute its business strategy?
- Shapes a culture that provides the conditions for individuals to perform. What type of culture is necessary for leaders to create that fosters organizational success?
- Creates a strong and sustainable talent pipeline. Are the organization’s current talent systems and leadership architecture aligned with desired organization competencies and leadership culture?
- Evolves the organizational design to best support execution on the business strategy. Do the organization’s structures, systems, and processes strengthen the ability for culture and leadership to evolve in support of business strategies?
You must first secure senior leadership alignment around your key business drivers, and then work to shape the culture which enables you to execute a strategy based on those drivers.
From there, almost all progress is made from selecting the best potential from the talent pool available and preparing that talent to respond to the demands placed upon them. Then craft the organizational structures and necessary measurement to make sure that desired outcomes are being achieved.
Develop Executive Teams That Lead Strategically
Successful leaders think strategically about the challenges they’re faced with, take action to address them within the organizational context, and influence other stakeholders to drive the institution toward the desired performance outcomes.
In order to develop executive teams that lead strategically, you must assess the current leadership situation and compare it to the desired future. This step often requires assessment and data collection in order to determine gaps, frame the team development process, and create a plan to a ensure alignment around the business strategy and key performance measures.
In addition to uncovering specific recommendations regarding approaches to develop current and future leaders, the leadership gap analysis also produces clear implications for recruiting, selection, and other talent management systems and processes.
With the business landscape growing increasingly complex and ever-changing, the ability of your organization to secure leadership alignment and develop leaders who think and act strategically is what will give you a competitive advantage and improve your overall business performance.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
The ability of your executive leadership team to work together effectively to drive change and execute strategy across the business may be the most critical element in your organization’s success. Our Organizational Leadership practice can help you refine your strategy as well as develop your executive team so that you’re able to implement strategy and drive better business outcomes.