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What Is a Game‑Changer?

Posted by
November 2, 2021

Topic: Strategic Leadership

Written by Karin Blair

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You may not identify as a game‑changing strategic leader — yet.

But you have a desire to shape a future that does not yet exist.

You’re answering a calling to transform the world, through business, for good.


Strategic leadership is a journey of continual transformation. No matter where you are in that journey, there is always opportunity for greater impact. The most effective strategic leaders learn to lead with conviction and connection; and create bold and disruptive strategies.

game-changers-guide-to-strategic-leadership-7
They are game‑changing strategic leaders creating game‑changing strategies.

Game‑Changing Strategic Leaders Defined

Game‑changing strategic leaders:

  • Challenge the status quo and envision a future few can see
  • Can be influenced as much as they seek to influence
  • Know how to pivot from the creative phase to the decisive phase of strategy
  • Execute bold, disruptive strategies with a high level of alignment, commitment, and engagement

They recognize that they can’t see or know everything in a world that is complex and shifting every day. 

These game‑changing leaders maintain a strong conviction for their strategic vision. And they are co‑creators of that vision, adept at receiving and including the perspectives and contributions of others. In the presence of game‑changing leaders, people feel heard. They know their ideas are valued, even if they are not agreed with. 

A Balancing Act

Game‑changing strategic leaders embrace the many dualities of leadership. They are continually balancing these elements of leadership:

  • Decisive and inclusive
  • Creative and productive
  • Vision and results
  • Purpose and profit
  • Change and stewardship

They astutely determine what is needed most at any moment to capture the benefits of each, and adapt accordingly.

Learning from Mistakes

Game‑changing strategic leaders are committed to learning from their mistakes instead of hiding from them — or blaming others. They lead by inspiration, not by fear. 

They care about their impact on others and readily lean into the discomfort of growth, both personally and for the broader organization. They understand growth can be uncomfortable, unpredictable, nonlinear – and manage their defensive reactions that arise in the discomfort of growth. 

They recognize that change is a journey and that there will be missteps on the way.

Game‑Changing Role Models

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, is being celebrated as the first woman of color and immigrant to lead a Fortune 50 company. And while a role model to many female leaders, she is a role model for all leaders of game‑changing strategic leadership. 

Nooyi rocked the boat, with a belief that a company’s impact on society needs to be written through all business planning – and that what is good for business and what is good for the world must go together. She launched a bold strategy under the umbrella “Performance with Purpose (PWP)” that would take PepsiCo into the future and transform the way the company made money. PwP informed all her decisions for over a decade. And the strategy held up through the global financial crisis and a failed multi‑year campaign by an activist investor to alter the company’s direction.

In her powerful new memoir, My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future, she shares stories of her journey to game‑changing strategic leadership — including how she reinvented PepsiCo and influenced 180 members of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of America’s biggest companies, to sign a statement committing to a stakeholder focus as opposed to a narrow shareholder focus.

A New Model of Game‑Changing Leadership

Role models like Nooyi demonstrate that game‑changing strategic leadership can take place without the rampant egoism or heroism of disruptors like early Steve Jobs. 

what-is-a-game-changerIt is possible to be bold and decisive, while also being compassionate and inclusive. 

These new game‑changers are embarking on the journey of connection, receptivity, and inclusion while also challenging the status quo and envisioning a future that few can see. 

They are following their calling, transforming their corner of the world, and showing us that corporations can be a force of change for good.

That’s what it is to be a game‑changing strategic leader. Where are you on your journey?

Download Game-Changers' Guide to Strategic Leadership

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