Usually, strategy and leadership failures point back to 4 things: failure to think, failure to discover, failure to decide and failure to negotiate. Want to learn to lead strategically? Read on to discover the three most common leadership failures and what to do about them.
Leaders Forget to Think
Many companies use best practices like a crutch, moving through situations without stopping to think about the system. In other words, what are the basic building blocks of our situation? If we can think conceptually, we can see reality more clearly. But we have to be able to stop, turn off email, say no to distractions and think. If you need to be convinced, check out this article.
Leaders Fail to Discover
It’s easy to find data to protect you from taking the blame, but the best leaders aren’t looking for excuses; they’re looking for forward movement. ROI is very helpful, but it’s backward-looking; it can’t tell you what’s ahead as well as qualitative research and the leader’s strategic creativity in connecting the dots.
Leaders Fail to Decide
Great leaders decide and define. They don’t show up with part of the data and ask others to make the decision for them. And then they take responsibility for the decision.
Leaders Fail to Negotiate
Once the leader decides the problem and the strategic direction, he/she presents it to his team and allows them to critique, inquire and improve. The leader needs to have a strong enough philosophy of the problem/opportunity to entertain objections and make sense of them.
The solution isn’t straightforward, but starts with a few things.
Find solitude and make it your mission to sit for an hour and a half every week with a blank piece of paper (or several). On that piece of paper, write the topics and major categories you’re trying to address. Then, think about the problems from a concept level. In other words, don’t say “if only so-and-so would file TPS reports,” but say “how do we deal with the TPS reports problem?” This allows you to reframe problems so you can solve them. Remember, all you need is a 1/4″ hole, not necessarily a 1/4″ drill bit.
Accelerate Discovery with a Working Hypothesis
Discovery may be even easier than we think. We’re taught in school that there’s one right way to conduct research (some version of “learn everything you can about the topic,” which is a very uninteresting, unorganized, bottom-up process, leading to time wasted), but I say create your own hypothesis and ask questions until you find a convincing answer. This could be getting sources from the trade press, industry experts, hiring a research firm or conducting your own qualitative research (interviews or focus groups). The key is this: get curious and get good at proving or disproving.
Decision can create discomfort. But since we can’t get away from it, let’s reframe it. We never make wrong decisions, but we could always improve. So have a bias toward decision. This take practice.
One more thing about decision…it’s almost impossible to have decision clarity when you don’t have a clear goal and strategy. So maybe go back to the strategy drawing board before you try to make a tough decision. It could make it easier.
Negotiation is a Productivity Multiplier
Negotiation is the easy part, as long as you’re cool bringing people in and listening to what they have to say. Here’s the beauty of negotiating: when they have a say and get passionate about a point of view, they’re now engaged. And engagement is always a productivity force multiplier. So make people feel heard and involve them often. It’s not your job to be right all the time; it’s your job to make people around you effective. If you can do that, you can negotiate projects to be more on-strategy.
This advice is simple, but it’s not easy. It takes an ever-increasing amount of security in the leader and a desire to grow.
Agree or disagree with anything in this piece or want help? Let me know.