Only 8% of Leaders Succeed at Both Strategy And Execution — Here’s How To Be One of Them

Only 8% of Leaders Succeed at Both Strategy And Execution — Here’s How To Be One of Them was originally published on Ivy Exec.

8% of Leaders Succeed at Both Strategy And Execution

You’re either a visionary or an executor. At least, that’s what the leadership structures at some organizations would have you think.

Being both is possible, although perhaps not intuitive. We’ve been taught that the mindsets required to excel at strategy and at execution are entirely distinct things — that you can become a leader who sees either the forest or the trees, not both. That’s likely why only 8% of company leaders, across countries and across industries, are said to excel at both strategy and execution, according to research conducted by PwC and reported on by Harvard Business Review.

What makes this divide all the more interesting? The fact that the majority of C-Suite leaders today were, at least at an earlier point in their careers, all executors, according to Phillip Kane, CEO and Managing Partner of Grace Ocean.

“Most leaders were, at one point in their careers, executors worthy of promotion,” Kane said. “They rise through the ranks almost always by passing through one or more roles that require them to excel in an executory capacity.” It’s at this later juncture that many leaders choose to focus on either strategy or execution — and it’s “almost always strategy,” he adds — at the exclusion of the other: “It’s simply a choice to do so, and one typically made because the conventional wisdom would have them believe that successful CEOs muse, not do.”

Those who opt out of this choice are at an advantage. As Kane puts it, they’re “neither a dreamer nor a doer — they’re simply and most accurately a leader.” Here are six ways to follow their example and become a leader who excels at both strategy and execution.

1. Leaders who excel at strategy and at execution have assembled the right team around them.

Katie Lyon, Co-founder of Allegiance Flag Supply, says this is about putting “a team in place that is not only behind your vision, but has the skills to make it happen.”

“In addition to motivated team members, you need team members who have experience bringing visions to life,” Lyon said. “They understand the nuts and bolts of an idea and how to get from A to Z. On the other hand, if you’re someone who excels at execution, then surround yourself with visionaries. It comes down to having a smart, diverse team who balances you as a leader.”

This is why people management is such an important part of being a strategic executor, Beau Pent, Head of Sales at GoCo, added.

“Always look for ways to make those around you better at their jobs so that you can use your human capital to the fullest,” he said. “When execution falls flat, it’s often a matter of not being able to recognize which people are the right fit for specific roles.”

2. They convey their vision clearly, embedding it into day-to-day communication.

The odds of your vision succeeding are only as strong as your ability to communicate that vision, clearly and often, Sasha Quail, Business Development Manager at Claims UK, says.

“Before commencing implementation, commit to a strategic plan to guarantee that all stakeholders, decision-makers and their team members are on the same page,” he said. “This ensures that everyone in the company is on the same page when it comes to the wider strategic goal.”

Communicating around this plan frequently — on a weekly and even daily basis — will help ensure it stays current.

“Strategies should not be static; they should change when new difficulties and opportunities arise,” Quail added. “Communication is essential for ensuring that you and your coworkers get on the same page from the beginning and continue on track as time goes on.”

3. They don’t shy away from giving feedback.

Ayelen Osorio, Content Manager at Netcoins, called feedback “the most important tool for execution.”

“It’s also one of the hardest things for most people to deliver, but it’s absolutely necessary for you to be able to hold yourself accountable, understand what your employees are doing, and give direction,” Osorio said. “When you give feedback, consider breaking it into three steps: What happened, so they know what information to integrate; why it happened, so they know the rationale behind it; and what should happen, so they can take corrective action.”

4. They have a clear system in place for evaluating progress.

You’ll never know how successful your strategy execution was if you don’t have the right frameworks in place to measure it, Daniel Carter, Marketing Manager at Perspective Pictures, said.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) must be established at the strategic planning phase, and success should be quantified,” he said. “A numerical objective allows you and your team to measure and evaluate performance regularly and determine whether any modifications are needed as a result of that progress.”

And be careful to truly tailor these objectives to your specific company, Zaeem Chaudhary, Architectural Draftsman at AC Design Solutions, added.

“Many operator executives make the mistake of formulating unrealistic targets based on competitor and market data when it comes to developing strategy,” Chaudhary said. “It’s not natural, original, or even visionary… You should concentrate on your own company and your own future goals. The plans that survive the test of time are those that concentrate on your company’s key differentiators.”

5. They’ve found the balance between innovation and practicality.

To achieve this balance, make a sort of road map for yourself, Daivat Dholakia, VP of Operations at Essenvia, advises.

“Define your vision and break it down into actionable tasks,” he said. “This is essentially your road map for getting to where you want to go. What do you need to do to get there? What steps will it take? Being able to see your vision from the point of view of the ‘project manager’ will allow you to take on that executor role.”

Once you’ve got your vision roadmapped out, you can match your resources to it, Max Turner, CEO at Car Donation Centers, says.

“Thinkers usually let their ideas get wild and can’t really execute it, while doers, on the other hand, play too safe,” he said. “What you need to do in order to get the best of both worlds is to match your ideas with your resources, be it money, manpower or time. This way you’ll set goals which are not only unique but also achievable.”

6. They’re willing to roll up their sleeves and lead from the trenches.

One thing that effectively all visionary-doer leaders have in common? They lead by example, Drewbie WilsonVP of Sales at Break Free Academy, says.

“The best leaders I’ve ever worked with had a willingness to jump back in the trenches with their team and do the work alongside them from time to time,” he said. “It’s not something you have to do often, but when you schedule time in your calendar to jump in and get things done with your team, it gives you more respect in their minds.”

And to make sure you’re actually creating time for in-the-trenches work, put it on your calendar, Wilson suggested.

“What I’ve found is that by scheduling that time specifically into your calendar, it makes it much easier to accomplish,” he said. “Having your team there by your side to hold you accountable helps you get insight into the strategic vision and how to execute at a higher level.”

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By Liv McConnell - Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec
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