Ever notice how great pep talks all have the same message? In one way or another, they all say, “Believe in yourselves.” It’s straight out of Virgil’s “They can because they think they can.” Great leaders own the vision and values – why. They lead strategic thinking around where to play and how to win. Then, they delegate tactical thinking to their tactical leaders to figure out how. Finally, they assume a cheer-leading role at points of commitment and action, because confidence is the key to actors’ success from then on.
While these are all components of inspiring, enabling and empowering tactical leaders per last week’s article, these are very different tasks requiring very different types of leadership. In some ways, it’s easier for leaders focused on strategy, tactics, or actions to build up the muscle-memory required to succeed at their particular area of focus than it is for leaders to move through the areas.
“Strategy” comes from the Greek word strategos – the art of the general – arranging forces before the battle. It’s about the utilization of all forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory.
The core strategic questions are where to play and how to win. Ultimately, strategy is about the creation and allocation of resources to the right place in the right way at the right time over time. It is literally about picking your battles.
By definition, this is long-lead time stuff. Great strategic leaders start broadly, looking at a whole range of scenarios and options. They pull in different perspectives. They develop plans, future capability plans, and contingency plans. They continually ask “What if?” They are deliberate, thoughtful and complete.
Strategic leadership is about thinking, frameworks, questions and considering more scenarios than others on the way to creating options that others don’t even see.
“Tactics” comes from taktikos – the use and deployment of forces in the actual battle in line with strategies. Great leaders set their tactical leaders up for success by giving them four things:
- Direction/objectives/desired results/intent to inspire with what and why
- Resources (human, financial, technical or operational) to enable success
- Authority to make tactical decisions within strategic boundaries/guidelines
- Accountability and consequences (standards of performance, time expectations, positive and negative consequences of success and failure)
Essentially, they are setting up the ABC’s of good management – Antecedents – Behaviors – Consequences. Direction/objectives/desired results/intent are the antecedents, prompting desired behavior. Accountability gets at consequences. The resources and authority pieces give tactical leaders the tools and room they need to behave the way they need to.
Great strategic leaders do not meddle in the tactics. They know that changing strategies once tactical planning has begun is a recipe for confusion and disenchantment.
Net, great leaders move from thought leadership at the strategic level to practical leadership at the tactical level, setting up their tactical leaders for success.
It’s all for naught until someone turns the thinking and resources into action. Great leaders know the time for thinking and exploring and planning ends at the point of commitment. They know that their only job once the initiative is launched, the game is begun, and the enemy is engaged is cheerleading, as interrupting the actors’ momentum comes with great risk.
Don’t underestimate the value of cheerleading. Leadership is about inspiring, enabling and empowering others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. BRAVE leaders work through five questions from the outside in.
- Where to play (Environment)
- What matters and why (Values)
- How to win (Attitude)
- How to connects (Relationships)
- What impact (Behaviors)
By the time they get to the last question on impact, the enabling is over. It’s all about inspiring. And inspiring is all about bringing out the actors’ confidence in themselves.