Seasoned executives know that so much of business success is having the right timing and talent -- getting there first and doing it the right way. Whether you are implementing a new service or technology or changing your entire mission to compete in your market, there are three different leadership superpowers that can ensure project success when used appropriately. It is not a question of choosing the right leadership style for the project and ignoring the others, but of finding the right balance in the approach so that every superpower is used at the right time to deliver an exponentially greater performance as a whole.
At The Spur Group, we’ve identified three different superpowers and their associated strengths and weaknesses. As consultants, we consider it our job to help clients fill in gaps in their leadership. With many talented leaders on our team, The Spur Group is quickly able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our clients and then draw from our deep bench to fill in the missing areas.
The three leadership superpowers we have identified are:
Executives who act as the visionary have almost an intuitive or instinctual knowledge of the path to success. If you've been around an inspiring leader who sees a clear path through murky waters or predicts the success of a new initiative amidst a room full of doubters, you've encountered a visionary.
These executives immediately understand the broader perspective. They look at the market conditions and know clearly where the company needs to move to find success. With technology companies, either the CEO or CTO should be a visionary to chart the best course through unprecedented territories.
Oftentimes, visionaries are unable to articulate the specifics of a plan, and these are details they’re often not uninterested in. They may deliver sweeping statements or become frustrated when others question their decisions or ask for specifics. Visionaries need co-leaders who bring tactical and strategic skills to their vision; without this critical support, the project can fail in implementation.
If you've ever worked with an executive who likes to create charts, maps, and lists, or who likes to survey the landscape before committing to a course of action, you've met a strategist. Strategists play well with visionaries because they can look at the vision and distil three core actions to take to get there.
Strategists think in terms of blockers and pressure points, quickly deducing the multiple downstream implications of a single change. They identify which pressure points will have the most impact in driving the desired change, and usually know just how to apply the pressure too.
In many companies, CVPs act as the strategists. These players understand the vision and think of it in terms of the mechanical changes that need to be made.
While strategists are able to determine the tactics needed to fulfill the strategy, they often oversimplify the amount of work needed. This can leave their subordinates, who quickly see the amount of work required to achieve an objective, feeling burdened or overwhelmed.
The strategist can avoid the trap of oversimplification by communicating in terms of the work products needed, not just the outcome. By always striving to be specific in the approach and explaining the why, The strategist can bring clarity not only to the vision, but to their direct reports tasked with executing the game plan.
The tactical coach
Perhaps the rarest of the leadership roles, the tactical coach can be a highly effective superpower for companies undergoing transformation or reinvention. While the tactical coach lacks visionary and strategical powers, they have two talents the other effective leaders do not.
The tactical coach excels at helping lieutenants work through challenging execution problems. While a strategist does not want to hear their plan is flawed, a tactical coach will be able to immediately see where the plan is flawed and come up with a workaround that fixes it. The tactical coach is also a great helper and relationship manager. They truly enjoy helping others and building consensus. Put a tactical coach in front of a bunch of doubters and he or she will explain the benefits of the plan and deliver the support that is truly key to the success of a new approach.
The tactical coach wants reassurance that everything has been planned out and all options have been considered before they bring their skills to bear on solving roadblocks. It might be helpful to involve them to the early vision boarding and strategic planning stages, but they’ll be helping to articulate the ideas more than build them.
Tactical coaches don't micromanage tasks, but they do want to see thorough plans before they put their skills to work solving problems. Tactical coaches do have a bit of a multitasking approach, often jumping from problem to problem and either figuring out a solution or a new approach. While there may be many native leaders who posses these strengths, consultants can often provide VPs and managers extra bandwidth in this area for special strategic initiatives.
Understanding the talents within your organization as well as gaps where you need help makes a world of difference. At The Spur Group, we believe in recognizing not only what someone’s capability is but also what value it brings to the particular scenario. This way, all executives can bring their unique strengths to bear at the right time to make initiatives a success.