I know how it is with inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
In the beginning, there’s just you and maybe a partner. You do everything. You make the calls, and you answer the phone. You make the presentations, and you make the powerpoint. You write the website and you code it. You order the midnight pizza and you take out the trash.
So, when it’s time to “be strategic,” I know how tough it can be.
A recent article in Inc. Magazine helps provide some guidance.
“Every leader's temptation is to deal with what's directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete,” writes Paul J. H. Schoemaker. “Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you'll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you're on is leading off a cliff.”
One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It's hard to be a strategic leader if you don't know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.
Schoemaker says, “After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what's required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well.”
Here’s his list:
- Anticipate – Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry. Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better.
- Think Critically – Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes. Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions
- Interpret – synthesize information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously
- Decide – balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers. Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views
- Align – foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it's uncomfortable.
- Learn – encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons.
I know this may seem daunting. I’ve run companies and advise start-up companies, including my latest venture Bioscience Bridge. So I appreciate the chance to share strategic insights and experiences with other innovators.