#OpenLeadership is the secret to linking the new way of thinking about vision, strategy and leadership to deliver on strategy over time.
“How long from when you put your Strategic Plan into action until it is not worth the paper it is written on?”
In 2016 I asked this question of 25 leaders around the world. The average and median answers? Six months. SIX MONTHS!
Most “Strat plans” are for a period of either 3 or 5 years, takes hundreds or thousands of hours from key people to develop over several months, and then they are “not worth the paper they are written on” in six months? Yes.
So what is a leader to do? My answer for you is, if you are ready, to embrace #OpenLeadership.
What is #OpenLeadership?
#OpenLeadership is the secret to linking the new way of thinking about vision, strategy and leadership so that business, organisations and their people and communities create, deliver on strategy over time and so thrive and helps other thrive.
So, what is #OpenLeadership? Let me break this into four parts
- Why is conventional Strategic Planning now obsolete?
- How to look at strategy and vision differently and in a way that lasts over time
- Rethinking what we mean by Leadership in order to deliver the Vision from the Strategy
- #OpenLeadership and why it is the key to all of this
1: The world moves so unthinkably fast that conventional Strategic Planning is now obsolete
One area of work for me for many years has been to support CEOs and Leadership Teams with coming together, aligning, setting their context, creating their vision, then strategy. However, over time the speed of change in the world, as well as the many “black swans” (see reference to Black Swans in “Act Now!” written March 8th, 2020, note the date!), have lead us to live in “Unthinkable” times.
Leaders literally are unable to think fast enough, deep enough, wide enough to have all the answers. Over and over again, I have seen strategic plans focussed too much on the detailed actions to withstand the pace of change over the 3 or 5 year period they are set out for, resulting in shelved plans and a loss of trust and faith in the strategic planning process. This all led me to my simple survey, with the startling results of “six months”. As my past guest on WhatComeNextLive, Chris van der Kuyl would say:
“These are the fastest times we have ever lived in, and the slowest we will ever see”
Clearly conventional Strategic Planning is no longer fit for purpose, so what is the answer?
2 : Time to shift what we think of as Vision and Strategy and how we develop it
Let’s begin with posing a question to solve: “how do we create a vision then strategy that doesn’t become obsolete within six months?”
The core answer to creating a Strategy that can stand the time is to elevate the Context of your leadership thinking to the Vision level first, then, critically, when you drop down to the Strategy level, keep the context high enough that it remains relevant and valid when the speed of change shifts things for and around your business.
What do I mean by that? Simple. Set a context (Vision) and then three core focal points that are at a high enough context that they are relevant no matter what happens to and around the business. Those themes become your strategic plan and yes, they fit on one page (easily). With those “locked-in”, then you can create operational plans that fit under those strategic themes, but the themes remain constant over time, guiding you and all the people in your business or organisation to help you deliver upon the vision.
Raising the context sounds simple, you might say, but to what? and how do we do that?
3 : Leadership is about people, end of story
The answer to how to create and deliver upon a Vision and Strategy begins with focussing on people. The vast majority of businesses and organisations are no longer about extracting from the planet, they are about bringing people together to add value. So, the answer is to align people and to motivate, inspire and support them to add the highest possible value in pursuit of common goals.
Simple, yes? However, “business is simple, people are complex”, so this requires a total focus on people from all leaders.
However, what we still often think of as leadership (particularly in large corporates) has been stuck for decades and needs to change. As the previous iteration of my home page began: “Command-and-control leadership is losing its grip. A new way is emerging: #OpenLeadership, embracing change as constant, encouraging individual thought, relying on intuition more than data, fluidity more than hierarchy, trust more than fear, and putting the common good ahead of profit.”
The age of the omnipotent, all-knowing CEO at the top of the “org chart” pyramid is rapidly coming to an end. No one person or team around that person can come up with all the answers, certainly not at the speed they need to have them at the speed the world is moving now.
In fact, I distill the job description of the CEO now to one line: “Keeper of the Vision”. The less a leader “does” the more valuable they are. Their role is to listen to the organisation (ie the people within and across it) and keep the “hand of the tiller”, keep things going in the direction of the Vision through focus on the strategic themes. Their role is not to have the answers, but to trust and empower their people to find the answers.
To wax poetic for a moment:
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, adventurer and author of The Little Prince, as referenced in this post
In more detail, my translation from the French of the original St.Ex passage around “teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
“And if, on the other hand, I communicate to my men the love of setting out to sea, and each of them is so inclined because of a weight in the heart, then you will soon see them diversify according to their thousand special qualities. This one will weave the canvas, the other in the forest by the sharpness of his axe will fell the tree. Another, again, will be forging nails, and some will be watching the stars to learn how to navigate. And all however will be one. To create the ship is not to weave the canvases, to forge the nails, read the stars, but to give the taste of the sea which is one, and in the light of which there is nothing that is contradictory but community in love”
Beautiful, and beautiful leadership, but also absolutely practical, and core to the successful transformation from “command and control” to empowering leadership in the British Army, linked together with this example: “Mission Command personified” (Mission Command is the philosophy/doctrine governing the British Army and is all about empowering people in the organisation to find solutions themselves to serve the Mission).
So, leadership is all about people, so raise the context to what inspires, drives, motivates and empowers your people. I get that this is perhaps a little vague, hence I entreat you to set up a call with me. I guarantee that, if you allow me to listen to your current strategy then what you feel both drives or inhibits it, I can show you what I mean by seeing what people-focussed strategic themes you can highlight and focus upon to drive results towards your vision.
Now, back to people and the role of the CEO/Leader is to be that “Keeper of the Vision”, so let’s now look at what CEOs/Leaders need to do.
4 : What is #OpenLeadership?
What do leaders need to do? Sorry, it was a trick question!. The real question is, who do they need to BE?
What we are talking about here is a transformational shift in leadership, from closed, “command and control” to open, empowering, inclusive, trusting, believing, supportive (and more!). This is therefore all about how a leadership “shows up”, who they are “being” as a Leader.
Over time, I’ve distilled this down to four characteristics, with a context taken from my late mentor, Ed Percival of #BeMoreYou, the encapsulation of all he learned and taught from over fifty years as a coach. Simply focus on these characteristics within yourself and bring them forward more and more. Be that person, aligned to your skills and experience in creating Vision and Strategy (at that high context level), and see for yourself the results.
PS for a masterclass in #OpenLeadership, watch this half hour #WhatComesNextLive with my past client Pat Kramer, CEO of BDO Canada. Truly inspirational, a leader absolutely focussed on people and on leading from values (exactly the type of high context to set a Strategy that stands the test of time!)
So, the four leadership characteristics are:
You know our world is moving away from traditional hierarchies and you are dedicated to pioneering the way to a new, more open model of leadership.
Seven of the most powerful words in business are “I don’t know, what do you think?” Your role is no longer to have all the answers, but to create an environment where the right questions come forward with an energy that is open, lifts up your team, and draws out the best from them.
Bravery means you’re open to being uncomfortable, to stretching, as that’s where the growth lies. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re playing it too safe. Bravery is a virtuous circle. When you embrace your full potential (discomfort and all). Your vision becomes clearer and your confidence increases, even in the face of uncertainty.
You’re not hungry for more status, wealth, or corporate perks. You’re hungry to work to your full potential to make a difference in the world. You’re hungry for what’s next.
I hope you have found my distilled thoughts of value to you for your own leadership, and, once again, as it says on the home page, when you are ready to start your journey, talk to me about your next steps.
Originally published at Tom McCallum.