...or a Compass?”
One of the common topics that routinely comes up in our executive coaching discussions with senior leaders, is understanding the distinction between strategic leadership and operational leadership. It is an important distinction that we’ve outlined in all our “Missing Piece” books. Recently, I watched an interview with Ken Frazier, former CEO of Merck & Co. who touched on this topic. During the interview he used the title phrase as his way of making the distinction, especially for leaders in the C-Suite.
We define strategic leadership as the level of leadership that sets the direction for the organization. This includes creating and socializing the vision, mission and values of the organization. It also includes creating and executing the strategy for the business and how the business competes in its markets and industries. It is typically the realm of the leaders at the top of the organization. The CEO, Executive Director, Business Owner are the lead strategic thinkers in their businesses who rely heavily on their lead teams to collectively create the direction towards achieving the strategy and becoming the vision!
Operational leadership, on the other hand, are the leaders who ensure the organization has the capacity and capability to execute the strategy. This includes ensuring the business has the right people, processes and tools (read technology) in place to create sustainable desired results. This is typically the realm of the leaders who report directly to the senior leadership team (strategic leaders) as they have a view of the strategy as well as a view of where the business meets the clients/customers/donors. This dual view provides the alignment between the strategy and tactical goals and actions required for sustainable tactical execution!
With that in mind, let’s explore the idea of senior leaders acting as a GPS or as a Compass and the impact both have on the business:
In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment senior leaders have a heady responsibility to create the right direction as well as continuously adjust the direction to account for the fluid nature of business change. They can ill-afford to take their eyes off the compass and must trust their operational leaders to fully leverage their GPSs to achieve sustainable desired results!
How are you fully leveraging your operational leaders? If you are not sure, we can help!