Saturday, May 9, 2020

Leadership: Strategic & Tactical approaches

Leadership effectiveness emerges out from the confluence of Strategic & Tactical approaches. It is also a poignant reminder to us, not to fall into the trap of overt singular usage of just one skill-set but to be mindful of the inter-dependency of Strategic & Tactical approaches for a meaningful, successful outcome.

The quote "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." by Sun Tzu underlines the importance of strategy & tactics for a successful outcome.

Leadership would be significantly flawed if there is over-reliance on tactics & due importance is not given to strategy.

Though Sun Tzu comes from a military background, the importance of Strategy-Tactics finds application in all fields of human endeavours. For example in competitive Sports, lot of strategising happens between the coach, captain & technical experts before stepping on the field. Once on the field, the players tactically respond to the changing dynamics of the match situation. The break-time, is once again utilized to re-strategise & tactical play returns in the scheme of things when match resumes.

In my mind, strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort & it's not intuitive. As we all are drawn towards the path of least resistance, the tactical approach route has more footfalls than the uphill route of strategy, until it becomes a habit with regular practice.

Why Strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort? 
  • One has to learn how to think
  • One has to set aside ego & biases
  • Acceptance of blind-spots (I know what I know, but I don't know what I don't know)
  • Multi-disciplinary approach & Synthesis mindset
  • Engage in consultative, democratic brainstorming session
  • Embrace contrary views & don't shoot down the messenger
  • Demands skills like being proactive, planning, risk anticipation & risk mitigation
  • It is about responding & not reacting
  • Two way communication is key to be able to strategise correctly, to convey the strategy, keep stakeholders engaged with the strategy over time & to revisit the strategy with the ongoing dynamics of changing realities
After consciously setting the strategic direction, the tactical approach has to be also leveraged for a robust process. The importance of tactical approaches are:
  • Recognition of the fact, we are living in a dynamic reality
  • Dynamic changes demands real time responsiveness
  • Good tactical response is based on intelligence, situational awareness & being proactive
  • Keeps the daily actions & activities aligned to the established strategic direction
  • On the ground, practical implementation of the strategy    
We would all have anecdotal stories of our positive experiences of strategic-tactical synergies and not so positive experiences when strategic & tactical approaches have not been in sync. These personal stories serves as a poignant reminder, to save guard ourselves from falling into the trap of polarity usage of just one skill-set. Meaningful success outcomes is driven by effective leadership, which demands both, strategic & tactical approaches.

Note: The reference has been deliberately made to the attribute (Leadership) & not to the title (Leader),because I firmly believe being a leader is agnostic of a formal designation or role. The other way to look at it is, many formal leaders come short in their leadership while many informal leaders with strong leadership qualities are not in formal position either by design or by choice.