Building Strategic Leadership Skills & Leadership Alignment Across Your Senior Team
Why do leaders of some organizations successfully execute strategies that lead to excellent business results, while others fail to translate strategic intent into desired outcomes?
The difference is in their collective ability to lead strategically and create leadership alignment.
We studied the differences between under-performing and superior-performing organizations as they worked to translate strategy into desired business results, and found that executives in superior-performing organizations link their business strategy and leadership strategy together.
They understand that a solid business strategy doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of organizations have a strategy that looks good on paper, but falls short or fails to deliver results.
At top-performing organizations, senior teams have alignment around the idea that they need to invest in a robust leadership strategy too if they are going to successfully execute and refine their business strategy.
They also have strong strategic leadership skills.
What Strategic Leadership Looks Like
This recognition raises decisions about leadership development to the strategic level. When senior executives set strategy, they also took a hard look at the organization’s ability to implement those strategies — and create parallel processes to develop the skills and behaviors they needed to live up to their performance goals.
Executive team members need to have strategic leadership skills to achieve goals, drive performance, and align short-term action with long-term direction. Leaders face the challenge of getting everyone, from the executive team to the front lines, moving together in the right direction.
A senior executive’s effectiveness is helped — or hindered — by their ability to:
- Lead change: Leaders foresee changes to the business environment that will bring increased complexity.
- Shape culture: Leaders develop organizational cultures that elicit strong identification and a sense of belonging on the part of individuals.
- Leverage polarities: Leaders understand and leverage organizational priorities that may appear to be diametrically opposed, understanding them as not as problems to be solved, but as polarities to be managed . Avoiding an “ either/or ” approach, they find “ both/and ” solutions.
- Span organizational boundaries: Leaders implement tactics for spanning boundaries in order to facilitate interdependent decision-making and collaboration.
Individuals and teams enact strategic leadership when they address the challenges most relevant to their business and create the direction, alignment, and commitment needed to achieve the enduring performance potential of the organization.
That’s why investing in high-impact leadership development especially for senior leaders is critical to help them hone their abilities to think, act, influence, and lead strategically as individuals. And with an executive team comprised of strategic leaders, building collective leadership alignment becomes easier.
What Leadership Alignment Across an Executive Team Looks Like
Leadership alignment and the collective ability to lead strategically are defining characteristics of executive teams in high-performing organizations. Executives at these organizations do the following things:
- Invest significant time on questions related to leadership drivers, coupled with powerful questions of leadership.
- Distinguish the periodic strategic planning process from leading strategically for ongoing organizational impact.
- Know that good strategic leadership at the organizational level is somewhat different from effective leadership by individuals scattered about the organization.
- Realize that when strategy lacks meaning for people, it’s unlikely that they will assimilate the essence of strategic directives and perform to their highest potential.
- Pay attention to leadership strategy along with the business strategy in order to reach their performance potential.
- Identify and focus on their most pressing leadership challenges and invest in developing the leadership capabilities to meet those challenges.
(If these behaviors don ’ t look like things happening on your executive team right now, learn how to increase executive team effectiveness .)
Building Alignment Around a Leadership Strategy That’s Connected to Business Results
4 Elements of a Leadership Strategy
As outlined in our white paper , a leadership strategy goes much deeper than a generalized belief in developing leaders and organizational talent. We identified 4 elements of a leadership strategy that are needed to transform strategic intent into practice throughout the organization on a consistent basis — and none of them are simple, check-the-box steps.
Executives in high-performing organizations will build leadership alignment around a leadership strategy that:
- Identifies the critical drivers of organizational success. What’s absolutely essential for leaders of the organization to accomplish in order to successfully execute its business strategy?
- Shapes a culture that provides the conditions for individuals to perform. What type of culture is necessary for leaders to create that fosters organizational success?
- Creates a strong and sustainable talent pipeline. Are the organization’s current talent systems and leadership architecture aligned with the desired organization competencies and leadership culture?
- Evolves the organizational design to best support execution of the business strategy. Do the organization’s structures, systems, and processes strengthen the ability for culture and leadership to evolve in support of business strategies?
Essentially, you must first secure senior leadership alignment around your key business and leadership drivers , and then work to shape an organizational culture that enables you to execute a strategy based on those drivers.
From there, almost all progress is made from selecting the best potential from the talent pool available and preparing that talent to respond to the demands placed upon them. Then craft the organizational structures and necessary measurements to make sure that desired outcomes are being achieved.
By gaining senior leadership alignment around a strong leadership strategy , you can begin to unlock the inherent performance potential of your organization and bridge the strategy-performance gap.
Learn how to diagnose problems in your team and get better results by focusing on the 3 outcomes of effective leadership: direction, alignment, and commitment .
A Closing Word on Leading Strategically and Achieving Leadership Alignment
Does Your Organization Have a Leadership Gap?
Successful leaders think strategically about the challenges they’re faced with, take action to address them within the organizational context, and influence other stakeholders to drive the institution toward the desired performance outcomes, building leadership alignment across the organization.
In order to develop executive teams that lead strategically, you must assess the current leadership situation and compare it to the desired future. This step often requires assessment and data collection in order to determine gaps, frame the team development process, and create a plan to ensure alignment around the business strategy and key performance measures. This type of leadership gap analysis also produces clear implications for recruiting, selection, and other talent management systems and processes.
With the business landscape growing increasingly complex and ever-changing, the ability of your organization to develop leaders who are capable of thinking and acting strategically and using their influencing skills to build leadership alignment around organizational priorities is what will improve business performance and give you a competitive advantage in the future.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
The ability of your executive leadership team to be strategic leaders who can work together effectively may be the most critical element in your organization’s success. We can help senior executive teams strengthen leadership alignment, implement strategy, and transform culture. And our strategic leadership solutions can help leaders learn how to to think, act, and influence more strategically.