“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.” – Sun Tzu (A Chinese general, military strategist and ancient philosopher who authored The Art of War.)
Becoming an effective strategic leader calls for knowing yourself—both your strengths and your weaknesses—and developing fresh approaches that can be incorporated into your existing leadership style. In CMOE’s experience working directly with leaders at all levels, we have discovered a number of distinctive qualities that truly differentiate strategic leaders from the rest of the pack. There are leaders throughout history who underscore this point, but we’d like to focus on just one: Alexander the Great.
Known as one of the most successful military commanders in history, Alexander the Great established one of the largest empires of the ancient Greek world, with boundaries from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas, and was undefeated in battle. When Alexander dealt with enemies on his home territory, he did so very quickly, a characteristic of strategic leadership that we have termed “agility.” These leaders move with flexibility and speed when problems or opportunities emerge and waste no time in making smart, well-thought-out moves.
Alexander the Great has also been noted as a genius in terms of his military assaults, tactical positioning, and method of leading his army to the right place at the right time to execute a powerful attack. Great strategic leaders are highly attuned to what is happening in their world. This strategic awareness helps them pay attention to the road signs and indicators that will influence their future. They have the ability to gather information and develop a full picture of the world in which they operate, as well as the discipline and personal resolve to take action and execute on the decisions they make.
Strategic leaders have a keen sense of ownership over the success of their teams and organizations. Alexander exemplified this quality by fighting on the front lines alongside his men. He led by example and cared deeply about what they were trying to achieve. Likewise, strategic leaders care deeply about the organization, its purpose, and its mission. They take full responsibility for achieving results and are willing to drive change and take calculated risks to reach their goals and help their organizations thrive.
Although Alexander the Great was a young leader and the odds were overwhelmingly against his military campaign, his armies united behind him and did everything in their power to reach their collective goals. There is something special operating inside of strategic leaders that goes beyond determination and commitment. We believe that this differentiator is tenacity—an unstoppable will and the perseverance necessary to achieve their ambitions.
Mastering these strategic-leadership abilities and creating your personal “plan to win” can be challenging.
Pausing the day-to-day action to step back and engage in a conversation with your team about where you want to go, what you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re going to get there gives you and your team the foundation needed to approach this year—and all the years to come—with a new level of focus and direction, helping to position you and your organization for long-term success.
To begin this process, ask yourself some questions like the following:
- What does winning mean for you and your team?
- How will your team unite and align its strategy with that of the larger organization?
- What are the roles and responsibilities for you and each member of the team in achieving short- and long-term success?
CMOE’s new book, The Art of Strategic Leadership will help you answer the questions above and incorporate the qualities exhibited by powerful, strategic leaders into your own leadership style.