Today’s business environment can feel rather like shifting sands – and that’s an uncomfortable experience for many leaders. The reality is though that this constant state of change is unlikely to, well, change. Ongoing fluctuation in business conditions is in fact just about the only thing anyone can predict with confidence.
In this context, senior managers and business leaders are expected to make ever faster decisions, often with far reaching consequences. Many are left feeling over exposed in this ambiguous corporate climate, and have serious concerns about their ability to sustain and enhance the performance of their organizations. In reality, this burden does generally fall on company leaders, but the good news is that it’s only a burden if leaders choose to view it in this way.
An alternative, and altogether more productive approach, is to view the unpredictability of the business environment as an opportunity to benefit from the scenarios which unfold. The magic ingredient in turning threat into opportunity is a business executive with the strategic leadership skills to maximize the potential of seemingly unpredictable events. Acquiring these skills could be the difference between company survival and collapse, so it’s an area worth investing in. To get started, we’ll consider three key areas for action on the road to becoming an effective strategic leader.
Anticipating change is a fundamental discipline underpinning effective leadership. Although it usually seems that developments could not have been predicted, if you delve a little deeper, there may have indeed been signs of what was to come. Honing horizon scanning skills will greatly enhance a business’s state of preparedness to respond to a changing business environment.
A constantly vigilant leader looks inside and outside the organization, and communicates regularly with key partners, customers and suppliers. Being ready for what’s coming greatly increases the potential for capitalizing on the situation, rather than becoming a victim of it. View developments within the big picture of overall business development.
There are a number of levels to this activity, but the bottom line is still the same – as the famous poem goes, ‘No man is an island.” Leaders must lead, but they are still part of a team. Being with workers at the proverbial coalface is an essential ingredient in enhancing employee performance. Regular communication with them will reinforce the message that there is a collective common goal.
Forging alliances with suppliers and other business partners will help ensure readiness to deliver in an ever changing business context. Building agreements with them, even and especially when times are challenging, will form the bedrock of company success. Customers also need to be on board when things are tough, so keeping communication open and honest is key.
Creating and communicating a strong vision is essential in any company, whatever the circumstances. Many organizations spend an eye-watering amount of money and time perfecting corporate visions, and are perhaps therefore understandably reluctant to deviate from them when conditions change. But sometimes, it takes a stronger leader to acknowledge that environmental shifts require an adjustment in company direction.
This can be difficult, and can feel like giving in. A truly strategic leader however understands that accurately reading a situation and being able to determine that it’s time for variation, is just as powerful as rigidly sticking to the original corporate objectives. An adaptive leader will possess the innovative problem solving qualities required to plot the chart, and inspire the team to follow the new course.
Becoming an effective strategic leader may sound like a lot to take on, but many senior managers already possess the fundamental qualities required to adopt this positive, proactive approach. Networking with senior colleagues and counterparts in other industries, can help reveal these existing strategic strengths and further develop skills more rapidly than a solo run. Undertaking such engagement in a structured way through formal leadership degree online programs is an ideal way of cultivating a more anticipatory, adaptive and visionary style of leadership. This method of skills development will ensure business and leader is best equipped to deal with the next curve ball being thrown in the path of the organization, and help turn it into a home run.