Everyone knows a well-defined business strategy is important. But few give thought to the leadership strategy that’s needed to make it happen.
Too often, organizations hold onto an old list of leadership competencies (or just keep endlessly adding to it). Or, they create talent programs that are too generalized — not factoring in the specific business strategies of their organization.
This disconnected approach to developing organizational and individual leadership won’t equip senior management, up-and-coming talent, nor everyday leaders to adapt to change and meet new goals.
When setting bold strategies that call for changes in the direction or capabilities of the organization, the leadership gap must be considered. One of the first questions to ask is: Do we have the leadership we need for the strategy we’ve set?
A leadership strategy is a map that aligns investments in leadership development with the strategy, goals, and aspirations of the business.
A leadership strategy makes explicit how many leaders are needed, what kind, where they’re needed, with what skills, and behaving in what fashion both individually and collectively to achieve the desired outcomes.
It also identifies other issues the organization must consider, such as whether current talent systems (like onboarding or performance management) support the culture and leadership you want to create.
Senior leaders need to be able to identify key strategy drivers and their implications for leadership. For example, “becoming more innovative” may be a key driver for larger strategic goals around market share or industry leadership. Implications for leadership strategy — and development of talent and culture — might include:
- Greater interdependence among leadership to create more effective collaboration across functions in bringing new products to market.
- A need to increase leadership involvement across functions in gathering consumer insights and translating these into profitable ideas for new products.
- Anticipating capital, space, and talent implications of rapidly expanding product portfolio.
- Need for cultural change to create a spirit of innovation versus a culture of risk aversion.
A comprehensive leadership strategy translates these implications into specific action and should take the following 5 factors into account:
- Quantity: How many leaders do we need? What are the current and projected leadership positions on the org chart? What about informal leadership positions?
- Qualities: What characteristics should individual leaders possess? Who needs to be represented or included?
- Skills and Behaviors: What skills, competencies, knowledge, and behaviors are needed to implement the business strategy and create the desired culture?
- Leadership Culture: What are the key attributes of the desired leadership culture? What leadership practices are essential, such as boundary-spanning, employee engagement, or creating opportunities for others to lead?
- Collective Capabilities: What capabilities do we need so we can act together in groups and across boundaries to implement strategies, solve problems, respond to threats, adapt to change, or support innovation?
Developing the leadership needed to implement business strategies takes careful planning, dedicated effort, and often substantial investment. But by going through the leadership strategy process, you open the door for more targeted, effective leadership development — and an organizational culture capable of achieving strategic success.
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