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Leadership – A journey from tactics to strategy

Updated: May 10, 2022

“Only 8% of leaders are good at both execution & strategy”. Agree or Shocked? This is per a #HBR study conducted few years back. Well, the actual number/percentage could be debated but the overall point seems to make sense.

Most people start their career in execution roles and in fact its tactical execution for most. Slowly they move their way into roles where they can make some strategic decisions (big or small). Essentially as people grow in their career, a common focus is to move closer to strategy. Most people feel that their day-to-day job involves mundane tactical stuff and very little strategy or big picture thinking.

Let’s first understand the difference between strategy & tactics. Strategy is defining the destination where you want to reach whereas Tactics are concrete actions you take to find your path right now. In an ideal world, this path should be in the direction of your destination, but lot of times it is not.

So, the first step for any Leader is to ensure that they and their team understand their organization’s Strategy, its Mission and Vision in detail. As a Leader, it’s your responsibility to pass this knowledge to your team.

The next step requires a mindset shift – from doing to determining why you are doing. This is easier said than done, deadlines and routine activities can push leaders into a tactical state of mind. The constant worry about ever growing To-Do list, meeting immediate targets make them addicted to short-term thinking. But to build a strategic mindset, it’s imperative that a Leader does not jump into “solution” mode right away but follow a “PAUSE | ACT | THINK” model.

As a leader, your job is not just to find a solution, but it is to find the “right” solution. So, take a step back, raise your view high enough to see (and show others) the purpose of this exercise – THE WHY i.e., why are you doing, who are you doing it for and would this be useful six months down the line as well. A Leader needs two kinds of perspective – nearsighted & farsighted.

Once you have taken the time to understand the WHY, try to align it with your organization's Strategy and determine THE WHAT i.e. what will help you reach the destination.

Now is the time to put the WHY & WHAT into ACTION.

For example, while building a solution for US market, it would be time efficient to only focus on local considerations i.e. language, regulations etc. But if your organization’s strategy includes increasing the footprint in the global market, the better strategy is to consider an upfront design that takes into account different regional variances. This will save you lot of heartache later.

This sounds very straight forward but taking 10 such decisions regularly especially in a time constraint environment becomes a big challenge. It’s an even bigger challenge if you are an emerging leader trying to prove yourself in the new role. After all, getting the solution faster got you to this position in the first place. As #MarshallGoldsmith discusses in his book #WhatgotyouhereWontgetyouthere, it’s better for you to get into a strategic mindset sooner rather than later.

The journey from Tactics to Strategy is not automatic. To begin with it requires an acknowledgment from the Leader that they need to take upon this journey. Even after that, the path to destination is unique for each Leader. As a #LeadershipCoach, I speak to number of Leaders – aspiring, emerging or seasoned, trying to enhance their strategic thinking while feeling stuck in tactics. I take them through this journey of self-reflection and help them find the best approach in their unique journey from tactics to strategy.

Feel free to contact me at
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