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An Invitation to Amplify Your Strategic Impact

Posted by
June 8, 2021

Topic: Strategic Leadership

Written by Karin Blair

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I have a vision.

Mine is a world with more game‑changing leaders creating game‑changing strategies.

what-is-a-game-changer

Leaders who transform the world, through business, for good. The transformation may be on the scale of one life or millions. The scale isn’t the defining element. 

It’s only the possibility. 

Architects of the Future 

YOU have a fire in your belly. You, too, want to effect change in the world.

What each of us is called to do varies:

  • “To help millions of people breathe better” 
  • “To improve health by unlocking the power of the genome”
  • “Transforming the business world, one leader at a time”

WE share a desire to shape and create a future that does not yet exist. 

We feel called to be the architects of these futures. We are called to be Strategic Leaders. Transformers. Trailblazers and Game‑Changers.

And yet, much like strategy, there is often a great divide between our grandiose visions and the stark reality of day‑to‑day,  game‑changing strategic leadership — our strategic impact. It is demanding and requires us to override our biological instincts.

Overriding our Biological Instincts

My son is the catcher on his baseball team. Catchers train themselves to work against their biological instinct in order to create new instinct. I watch my son put himself “in harm’s way” (at least that is what all the signals to our body would say) instead of protecting himself from a ball screaming toward him at 70+ miles per hour. 

It takes a lot of practice and repetition to override that instinctive wiring.

As game‑changing strategic leaders, we too must learn to override core human instincts:

  • To belong 
  • To be credible (aka right) 
  • To be certain 
  • To be accepted 

Game‑changing strategy demands difference: differentiating from the competition in ways customers value. Difference puts acceptance at risk. If strategic difference meets broad acceptance, you’re a creative genius. And if it doesn’t, you’re rejected, dismissed … a failure. 

There’s a fine line between a genius and a fool. What are you willing to risk?

Amplifying Your Strategic Impact

Game‑changing strategic leadership represents the Olympics of leadership. An elite level of performance estimated to be achieved by about 5% of leaders today. 

No matter your natural talents, you will need to develop and stretch yourself to become a game‑changing strategic leader. 

game-changers-guide-to-strategic-leadership-7

At any moment, you can choose to amplify your strategic impact through deeper insight and the courage of your convictions and connections.

Committing to the Journey: Game-changing Strategic Leadership

We are what we practice each day. And the extraordinary becomes possible when we commit to our ongoing development as leaders, and as humans.

The journey will be different and distinct for each of us. We all start with different strengths, talents, and reactive tendencies. At any moment, we bump into an edge of discomfort that we just can’t quite tolerate … yet. 

So we react. We avoid. We fall into habitual ways of leading that we don’t like, that others don’t like, and that just isn’t quite as effective as it could be. 

Maybe your edge of discomfort is in leading with Conviction:

  • To step out on that limb — risking harmony, belonging, connection
  • To assert a distinct point of view, held by few (if any) 
  • To challenge the status quo and stand for a future that few can see 

Or maybe your edge of discomfort is leading with Connection:

  • To bring others along to a future you can so easily see
  • To be influenced as much as you seek to influence
  • To be just a little less certain that you are right, welcoming challenge in support of co‑creating new realities

My hope is to orient you to that edge, wherever it may be, and inspire you to lean into and expand beyond it. Because when you can see beyond the edge, you can make intentional choices to practice something different

Something that helps you each day to be just 2% more of that trailblazer that you are called to be.

Orienting to the Journey: "You Are Here"

The Evoking Insights blog is designed to be a guide, a Sherpa, a partner on your journey — wherever you may be in that journey of game‑changing strategic leadership. Learning, discovering, and developing together.

There are four stages, or states, associated with strategic leadership. The journey isn’t linear, even though our desire for control and certainty might wish it were. 

Ironically, the greater the strategic impact, the more we must embrace what we cannot control

Where do you find yourself today? And what might be your leadership vision for tomorrow?

Stage 1: Thinker 

In this initial stage of strategic leadership, the biggest shift is from a sole focus on near‑term results to longer‑term horizons and positioning. From the urgent to the important. From the certain to the uncertain. 

You will spend time thinking about the broader environment in which you operate (internal and external) and strengthening the strategic logic and context considered in your recommendations. 

Your sense of value as a leader will move from delivering near‑term results to setting longer‑term direction. This stage is like shifting from harvesting a garden to planting the seeds for future gardens. 

Stage 2: Planner

The Planner’s strategic scope and complexity expand to creating a long‑range strategic plan for your business or function. 

The plan will provide clarity of action, much like an operating plan except with a longer‑term horizon. A sense of direction is created in the form of long‑term goals that provide focus and alignment. Elements of market analysis and consideration are present, although the depth of strategic insight may be lighter. Habitual ways of reacting to the increasing degrees of complexity, uncertainty, and challenge are the norm.  

Stage 3: Creator 

Strategy and plan are no longer synonymous, and you are building the capacity to navigate greater uncertainty and complexity. You accept that the future isn’t knowable or controllable. Your strategy is unique and distinct as you begin to challenge paradigms, rethink opportunities, and change the rules of the game. You know how to pivot from the creative phase to the decisive phase of strategy — making tough decisions and being relentless in your clarity of focus and priority. 

With clarity of direction, your strategic leadership is occurring in the day‑to‑day as you align near‑term actions across the organization with that direction. You are building the capacity to lead with Conviction AND Connection. 

Stage 4: Transformer

This stage is an extension of the Creator. The primary difference lies in the scope, scale, and consequence of your leadership. 

The degree of risk, the level of complexity, the depth of strategic insight, the courage of conviction — all continue to rise. AND you're able to create and execute bold, disruptive strategies with a high level of alignment, commitment, and engagement.

You have the conviction of your beliefs AND remain as inclusive as you are decisive. It is at this stage we begin to approach the conviction and consequence of our beliefs on the level of Howard Schultz (Starbucks) and Indra Nooyi (Pepsi). When we remain resilient in the face of this:

  • “It cost us millions of dollars.”
  • “I came under tremendous criticism.”
  • “Competition smelled blood and went after us.”

What Is Your Edge of Possibility?

As you orient to your current state of strategic leadership, what do you notice?

The two DNA strands of strategic leadership may vary for you.game-changers-guide-to-strategic-leadership-7

  • Strategy strand = our ability to think strategically, derive strategic insights, and create sustainable advantage

  • Leadership strand = our ability to be bold, decisive, and inclusive — to assert our vision AND bring others along to it

You may find the strategy strand leads or lags relative to your leadership strand. You may notice that your stage of development in one strand impedes the other. 

Our strategic leadership DNA is inextricably linked. How you lead (leadership behaviors and mindsets) will invariably influence the decisions you make and the risks you take in where you lead your business or function. 

And so here we are. Strategic leaders. Sitting in complexity - that can be overwhelming. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Embracing uncertainty and developing in ways that enable us to transform the world, through business, for good. On whatever scale is possible, today. And a different scale that becomes possible tomorrow. 

Remember, the scale isn’t the defining element of being the Game‑Changer that you are. Only the possibility. What is sitting right at the edge of possibility for you today? What different choice do you want to make?

Download Game-Changers' Guide to Strategic Leadership

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