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Strategic leadership – sounds like yet another of the latest buzzwords!

If an organisation wants to truly thrive today, it’s going to take more than ‘doing’ leadership the way it’s always been done.

Our clients and our teams want, and let’s be honest, expect more from us…

At the end of last year, I took over as MD here at Excel as we moved into our next phase of growth.

As the previous MD stepped back and I moved forward, we knew that strategically things would need to change and consequently we sought the help of specialists in the field.

It’d been an incredibly productive process, and many of the lessons we’ve learnt have been around our personal and collective leadership as a team.

So what are the signs that demonstrate you’re behaving, or not, as a strategic leader?

The uncomfortable truth is that if you don’t have strategic leaders in your team in a world of continuous and fast-paced change, you will struggle.

You need to both develop, train and retain leaders who will guide your organisation through the changing times in which we all live.

I’m recording this as Brexit dominates the UK news, and no doubt the rest of the world too.  I’m not here to make a political comment but consider this; if there had been even just a touch more strategic thinking potentially, we wouldn’t be in the situation we currently are; would we?

Before we head into what strategic leaders don’t do, let’s look at a few common positive traits they do have.

  • They challenge the status quo without causing havoc or cynicism; not something that’s easy to do.
  • They’re also able to do big and small chunk, and at the same time. In other words, work on the big and small picture, course correcting at speed when needed. One of my biggest challenges over the last quarter has been balancing my time spend in the business as opposed to on the business.
  • They build engaged teams, all the while acting from a place of humility and respect.

Does this sound like you?

Let’s explore this further and share the ‘things’ you certainly won’t be doing.

1. Fail To Set Goals And The Systems That Underpin Them

Goal setting happens in most organisations; however, the challenge arises when the systems that deliver the goals aren’t put in place, and worse still regular communication doesn’t happen.

Here’s a question for you… Have you ever sat through a meeting where your team or organisational goals were communicated, and that was it?

You weren’t involved in the next steps or given any responsibility to make decisions, and empowerment was sadly lacking?

If the answer is yes, it’s likely that at this point in your career you were experiencing working with a leader who wasn’t working strategically.

2. Be Full Of Inconsistent Behaviours

If you’ve ever worked with a moody ‘boss’ or an individual where you need to pick the ‘right’ time to have a conversation with them; this isn’t someone who is demonstrating strategic leadership behaviours.

As an organisation that delivers leadership development programmes across the globe, we encourage our participants to be authentic in both how and what they communicate.

However, if I have just described you, something needs to change. It’s not OK to say, “well this is how I’m, so get over it!”

Being a strategic leader isn’t easy: it’s can be really stressful.

If you know that certain things trigger you, either at work or at home, it’s critical that you develop some coping strategies to support you.

3. Praise And Then Promote Too Fast

This might sound strange and a little old school; hold onto the lavish praise and hang fire on promoting that new recruit too soon.

Let’s handle promotion first.

Our current workforce is multigenerational, and if you’ven’t read our report on how to motivate and engage your changing workforce head over to our resources page on the Excel website and download your copy.

With the majority of our workforce predicted to be Millennials within the next few years, it’s easy to assume that if you’ren’t promoting these individuals, they will leave.

Not so.

Millennials want to get results and achieve, and they also understand they need to have the skills to do this and want to be developed.

Strategic leaders, though risk takers, won’t put someone into a role without the necessary support around them or the knowledge that an individual has skills that can be honed and developed.

Let’s talk about praise too.

We live in a society where some people measure their worth by the likes and shares they’ve got on a recent Facebook post. Sad, yet unfortunately true.

Don’t fuel this all too common pattern.

In today’s talent-short career market, you might feel compelled to over-compliment a team to build engagement and reduce the likelihood of people leaving.

This isn’t how it works. In fact, it can become counterproductive. A great leader knows the power of praise – that is, when to give it and when it is not necessary.

If you lavish praise on your team simply for performing the standard elements of their role, there is a danger that they will start to view ordinary or expected behaviour as exceptional and therefore not strive to go the extra mile.

Of course, say thank you to your team and acknowledge a job well done. This is a common courtesy that scarily some leaders forget.

However, reserve true praise as a way to recognise achievements that went above and beyond.

In so doing, the “excellence bar” is constantly being raised, which is all part of building something great, rather than something good.

So, how do you rate yourself when it comes to demonstrating the skills of a strategic leader?

I hope this post has been helpful.

If you would like help to improve your leader’s strategic capability, then do get in contact.

Until next time…

Rachel Hewitt-Hall


About Excel Communications

Excel Communications has a 30+ year history as a global leadership and communication skills company providing training and development to organisations across the globe, view our case studies here.

We’ve a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.


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