The covid-19 pandemic has generated a massive reorganisation in the way people live and world across the world. Businesses folded as their traditional sources of revenue dried up, whilst others flourished and adapted successfully to sudden change by updating their operating model in order to survive as a business.
In a nutshell strategic leadership is the ability to adapt and flex with change, set a new direction and to have the capacity to mobilise quickly.
The strategic capacity of our leaders is arguably the most important determinant of personal and organisational success. We’re quick to criticise in hindsight when it fails for example; why didn’t Kodak see the digital camera coming? How could Blockbuster underestimate Netflix? Yet we continue to invest in skills that hold us back, neglecting the things that make a real difference.
Unfortunately, traditional executive education is failing us. Leadership and management programs are operationally focused, resulting in leaders who are experts in their field, flat out busy, but battling with the stuff that makes a difference, leaving us poorly prepared to respond when our business model becomes irrelevant overnight.
Important Skills Required to Be A Strategic Leader
Strategic leadership is all about context. Strategic leaders ask questions like: “What’s going on?”, “What should we be thinking differently about?” and “What are we not seeing?”.
Here are some skills commonly possessed by strategic leaders
Flexibility – how we cope with change
To lead through complexity, we need to be accepting of change. Flexible leaders know that leadership isn’t about getting things done in spite of their environment, but because of it.
They have the awareness, agency and resilience to withstand pandemics, natural disasters and technological disruption, because they stay flexible to the world around them.
Decisions – how we make choices
Making good decisions is an acquired skill. Decisive leaders know it’s not what they think, but how they think that matters, focusing on providing direction that drives action.
They know that no cost-benefit analysis will save them, without the skills to capture diverse input and build in tolerance for change.
Systems – how things fit together
Strategic leaders think in systems, because they are aware that successful organisations dismantle siloes and work out how things fit together.
Systems leaders don’t settle for what is in front of them, focusing instead on the messy stuff such as; context, relationships and dependencies. They stop finger-pointing and problem-solving to pull levers and dissolve issues before they take hold.
Performance – how we get things done
True performance isn’t operational excellence or time management it’s the ability to focus.
Strategic leaders understand that their most valuable resource is their attention, optimising their environments and teams to invest in the factors that make a real difference. They know that once they eliminate all distractions and insist on value, quality and accountability, there’s nowhere left to hide.
Influence – how we impact others
Influential leaders know that political savvy isn’t slimy; it is non-negotiable for impact at scale. They know that their integrity, relationships and reputation are what make the difference.
As our environment continues to shift, it will be the leaders who can bring others with them whose ideas will take hold.
Businesses In The Age of Covid-19
To remain fresh in the minds of their customers small businesses were forced to put more time and effort into their social media marketing strategy to help boost online sales. Due to the closure of their physical stores clothing retailers had to upgrade their online stores to continue selling their products. The types of stock clothing stores were selling online also had to evolve. Instead of predominately offering clothes that customers would purchase to wear on a night out at the clubs, retail stores began to move towards a shift in selling outfits that customers would feel comfortable with wearing around the house during the lockdown. This example highlights the significance that a business must be prepared to adapt to sudden change in the age of covid-19. Adaption is the key to any small business that is aspiring to remain successful during one of the most unpredictable periods of human history.
As a way of responding to the lockdown in March many gyms across Australia decided to introduce online fitness programs for their clients. These programs were originally only made available for existing members of the gym. However, over time many gyms expanded their reach by enabling these programs to also be accessed by individuals who hadn’t registered a membership with their gym. This innovative decision helped grow the gyms online presence thus giving their business exposure to a larger community. This resulted in more people purchasing a gym membership when covid restrictions were eased and gyms were able to re-open in real life. Even after gyms were physically re-opened online classes continued to be popular as gyms across the country had to abide by the 1 person per 4 square metre rule that was followed by cafes and other indoor venues across Australia.
For a period of time cafes and restaurants were only allowed to serve take-away products. Since customers weren’t allowed to dine in for a meal, hospitality venues had to re-access how they distributed their food to customers. Many cafes began to sell everyday products such as; milk and bread for a price similar to the supermarkets. This was a very intelligent business decision to make due to the difficulty many Australians faced with purchasing essential items in supermarkets as a result of many customers panic-buying. Many restaurants sold un-cooked pasta and un-cooked meats for customers to take home and cook due to a shortage of pasta and meat being available in supermarkets.
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