Leadership and Strategy

Leadership and Strategy

I believe it’s human nature to want to know where you’re headed. I also believe that when you’re in a position of leadership, your team or teams are entitled to know why you’re headed there.

Good leadership would state that you should share that information so that you get collective buy-in.

The where enables your team or teams to know what the ultimate goal is and what achievement they’re aiming for.

The why, if done right, gives them something to hold on to. The belief, the reasoning, the thoughtfulness. It’s the thing that brings people together. It’s the emotional connection. It’s the thing that makes them get out of bed in the morning.

If you put all of your own internal language to one-side and any bias that may carry, let me use a military analogy to share my view on where I think folks can do a better job to cover off a few pieces like empowerment, leader-leader, story-telling and goals and why some** structure mixed with independence and autonomy – can have massive positive effects on teams.

Imagine if “Insert company slogan here” is your ultimate goal as a company. It never shifts. It’s the mountain you’re told to take, and if you do, your company and your customers will see success, but success takes time. It’s a journey.

In order to take the mountain, you have to take the villages, towns, cities and hills around it. These are your objectives towards your ultimate goal.

The bad way

Tell folks to “take that village” and they look at each other like you’ve gone mad, however, because they’ve been told, they run off towards it whilst with no plan, no reasoning and no resources. They hit blocker after blocker and failure after failure but continue on to impending doom because they’re solely fixed on the order they’ve been given.

The good way

The commanders from air, land and sea have stood around a map; they’ve identified that in order to “take that village”, there needs to be a coordinated set of actions:

  • Recce to know what they’re up against
  • Identify routes in
  • Identify potential points of contact – enemy
  • Identify how many enemies
  • Create a fallback plan should shit hit the fan

The commanders can communicate the reason ‘why‘ the village is important so the fighting force knows what and why they’re fighting for. This involves a level of story-telling which is clear, consistent with fine-tuned clarity. Done well; the folks on the ground understand it the first time, every time.

This information then gets passed down to lesser-ranked commanders until it’s gone all the way to the fighting force on the ground so they can act upon their orders.

Each member of the force is empowered to speak up, share opinions and give guidance on their own skill set/position in the team in order to maximise the safety of those around them and get to their goal. Because they’re empowered they take ownership of their responsibilities – this is the leader-leader model.

Folks follow great leaders because they can do all of the above.

If you’re a leader, you need to do the same.

You need to let them know what the ‘hill’ is and why they need to fight for it.

You need to prioritise the roads, villages, towns, and cities that need to be taken in order to get to the hill.

You need to frame why those need to be taken (aka, What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? And who’s going to do the taking?

If we have Commanders, then with enough information they can work together with others from each of the ‘arms’, aka Product Management, Design and Engineering to get the job done in the right way. We should know who is capable of what and where gaps need to be filled.

Great leaders are enablers in every sense of the word.

Leaders need to nail all of this to get everyone aligned and have them know where we’re headed and why.

It’s your time to story-tell the above in a non-military sense.

What are the hills we need to take, why do we need to take them, in what order does it need to be achieved and which parts of your teams are going to do each bit?

One step further, how are you going to support them to accomplish their mission?

** There is often an opinion that structure can cause a reduction in speed or momentum. However, it’s a balance. You need just enough structure for something to work better and faster.