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Honing Strategic Leader Traits - for Business Mindset

This topic is close to my heart as I have seen exponential success following it. So, are you ready to hone the strategic leader traits?

Before we deep dive, lets understand who is a strategic leader?

A leader who has the ability to visualize, plan, lead, and make the best out of the resources they have to execute their work efficiently and successfully. One should also be adaptive, someone who is both resolute and flexible, persistent in the face of setbacks and that’s important. You should also be able to react strategically to situations + who can influence & marry their strategic plan to their strategic management would be the key selling point to be a strategic leader.

To play the role of a strategic leader, let’s look at the trait’s characteristics / features / qualities of effective strategic leaders.

First and foremost is the mindset, strategic mindset to see a bigger picture to build that kind of a culture. A research based few main traits of effective strategic leaders is to anticipate, challenge, decide, interpret, align, learn that will help you lead to superior performance and what’s more important is applying all these skills at once.

Sounds difficult, not at all. It can happen simply by following few frameworks, as I have done that successfully. To begin, let me ask you few questions? As a leader, do you have the following competency to run the function successfully? And even if you are not a leader it is good to start thinking in this direction to move up the ladder.

  1. Do you know what are your organization's objectives?

  2. Are you aligning your approach and process to support the business objectives?

  3. Does your CEO think that you are contributing to the business goals?

  4. Are you good at metrics, data analysis and measuring ROI (Return on Investment)

If you are having any doubt on any of the questions above, then this is a good read for you to rework your approach on how you are working. I learnt it’s important to influence the management on bringing your ideas as an integral part of the organization and INFLUENCE is the key to be part of the c-suite agenda. I’m sure you will agree as your idea will be directly linked to your function existence, your role, and career enhancement; hence you should focus on what is that one thing you are going to influence your management which will make an impact to the business, your career and overall success of the project or organization.

Is this approach creating curiosity for you to deep dive??

so, I was initially struggling as a leader to make this shift even though I had the capability, and that is when I came across Simon Sinek the Golden Circle concept in one of the leadership programs I attended. I was thinking that we should apply this formula in our training function and as I started using it, I felt that this is applicable in all walks of life. From Learning & Development point of view, I discussed the same with my manager who was a HR Head and he told me that this is what the top management would be keen on, and my aim was to create that experience for people and results to the business while I design or execute my project. I had similar conversation with technical or business leaders and I realized they are also using the same strategy to make an impact in their function or to influence the CEO, buy-in from clients, negotiate with employees. Leaders live in the world of number, data, analysis and that’s their power for making any decision and it’s important to have this power to influence. I’m sure when you show data with results, business has no choice but to accept your proposal, agree?

So, as a pilot, I applied this framework in one of the projects using 3 main components of Simon Sinek Golden Circle. It was super successful, and the result was exponential with this strategy. I had shared this approach with my team members and a few of the L&D practitioners and they are also seeing the desired outcome by applying this framework. Now I can confidently say that this framework is not only applicable in the business context, but it can be applied to any industry/department, entrepreneurs, students and it is working well with most of my clients I coach as they get clarity and are curious to make an impact and you can apply it in in all walks of life.

So, are you wondering what are the components and how to apply this strategy? Yes, the 3 components are Why, How and What and in that order only you need to ask yourself in anything you do. It will look simple to you when you hear these 3 components, however when you answer to these questions in a thoughtful manner, you shall see a deeper meaning and value that you would be creating by going through this process. And again, I repeat, Why, How and What and in that order only.

Let’s begin with Why? Why - is your core purpose and belief and one needs to be clear with why you need to begin as this helps in making any decisions going forward?

For example,

  • If you are student and you want to crack that exam - then you need to be clear on why? why this exam? right?

  • If you are business owner and you are looking at a product, you need to know why this product and what is your core purpose and belief if you take it up and

  • If you are an individual and looking for career progress and choosing a particular company to join also, you need to ask this question why? So, you will be able to move forward in the right direction.

What has worked well for me is the Deming model (PDCA or PDSA or OPDSA) as it is an effective approach to know your why, how and what status.

Let me explain a gist about Deming Cycle and it has 4 letter acronym PDCA or PDSA and the new version now is OPDSA. PDCA (P stands for Plan, D for Do, C for Check and A for Act) PDSA is Plan, Do, Study, Act or Adjust and the new version OPDSA – O stands for Observe, plan do study act. so, when you get into Simon Sinek golden circle principle, you need to ask the question Why you want to do the project or whatever you are doing and to answer that question with the help of PDCA or PDSA model to get your answer.

To begin,

  • P for Plan – You need to identify aspects and impacts by implementing your goals and objectives and the next step would be to do.

  • D for Do – which means you need to implement the plan including end to end execution with some measures so you know how you are doing it, followed with

  • C for Check or S for Study - it is by monitoring, measuring & assessing the effectiveness of the project, reporting, checking the results and analyze the opinion or feedback of the decision makers and based on results, the last step would be to

  • A for Act or Adjust and that’s the last letter in PDCA or PDSA - so Act on what changes are required and you may need to make adjustments based on the check you made as it helps you to decide if any changes or correction required or you may need to look at bringing another option as your overall approach should be to improve the process and aim should be on continual improvement while working on PDCA or PDSA model and not to fail the project.

And why am I saying this model, as I’m a process-oriented person and PDCA (Plan–Do–Check–Act or Plan–Do–Check–Adjust) is an iterative Science based design and management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement as well as it is, data driven, iterative process improvement methodology which has helped me turn my ideas into action and helps to connect the action to learning followed with best results in the project.

This needs an extra effort as it helps to talk to key leaders in the system & focus on their business objective, project plan, problem statement and what is their strategy in achieving their goals. You will be in a better position to explain on what is your contribution as an enabler in the overall business plan. You must also highlight on continual improvement & end result which will add value to business.

So, for example, when you question on why? You have to have complete vision of the project starting from your data, identifying, in which stage the project or organization or product is, understanding the financial implication, revisiting the competency is crucial to move ahead and analyzing the skill gap needed for the project and your end results helps you to execute whatever you have planned seamlessly.

The next phase is on How? You can move to next step How, only when you are clear with why. You need to play a pivotal role in powering on HOW as you will put these concepts and apply your strategy in creating value for your clients. So, you will start aligning to all the points identified under WHY with a focus on how to execute and make an impact. You will have clarity on how to onboard the project plan, connect with right partners, involving right stakeholders, execution design, getting the right budget, necessary approval on the overall plan.

So when you are working on How, your mindset will be like a consultant with solution -oriented way to a business problem, you will be able to do a right intervention in identifying skillset, you will do gap analysis of people competency, sourcing right vendors or people, you will seek expert advice for execution, collaborate with relevant stakeholders and what more, you will be ready with Plan B, Plan C or alternatives if Plan A fails. You will also look at cost implication, business buy-in with necessary approval at all levels would be your strategy when you ask the question how? Making sense?

The final stage of the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek would be on WHAT you do: Most of the time, we would begin with what, but in Simon Sinek principle you will focus on what at the end stage for executing the project. With the golden circle format, you will now have clarity on inside out approach and you will start building those connections on why & how you are doing to add value to business and overall organization’s success. So, please note that why has a way of creating that connection with the business and the people who are your key customers and WHAT is the approach, at an operational level, as at this stage you are creating value to the organization.

For example, what would be your marketing and branding strategy, how are you going to build connect with relevant stakeholders and how are you briefing them on your project, messaging and positioning your overall plan, your experience and expert insights in specific, you will also discuss on corrective action and preventive measures, metrics + how you are going to measure in detail. Please note that it’s important to show on how the needle will move up in your project when you work on what. Makes sense 😊

I hope you understood the Simon Sinek principle of why how what and in that order only to execute your project and adding Deming Model of PDCA or PDSA or OPDSA…. Which stands for Plan to Check or Study Act and Adjust and also Observe to execute your project.

My Final Thoughts: Take Charge as if you are owning the business, Communication is the key and being Consistent is important. Your purpose should be the Experience you will create for the People who have engaged in this project & your Outcome should be the value you bring to the Business. So, go ahead, as now is the time to earn your seat at the business table. I would say Nothing will change unless YOU change and you should drive your energy to create MINDSET and make PEOPLE understand, PROCESS needs to be Reimagined and TECHNOLOGY is the fuel that allows it to happen.

To conclude, Simon Sinek says that people don't buy what you do, but why you do it. Embrace this insight as an opportunity to REWORK on your strategy starting with WHY. Do focus on how to upskill, cross skill, and parallel skill and understand what is required at board level and create that experience without losing focus on the outcome. Also make it more personal, engaging as you are going to create a unique opportunity to gain visibility as a strategic, proactive and innovative leader in whatever the projects you are doing and I can guarantee that, because I have seen the success path in this way.

Would love to hear your views & wisdom on your approach on `Honing Strategic Leader Traits’ and executing it in your project.

Please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Thankyou 😊

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