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Leading The Charge: The Strategic Power Of Leadership Mindset

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When well-laid plans fall flat, it may not be strategy that needs reassessing—but your mindset.

In the past 18 months, many of the chief executives with whom I’ve been working have encountered organizational, performance and execution challenges despite having comprehensive strategies in place to address them. In every case, these strategies were set with the objective of driving transformative advancement. But in practice, they have fallen flat.

When my colleagues and I dissect these challenges, what is apparent is that the design of these strategies has not taken into account two linchpin elements, both in the area of leadership mindset: being integrated and taking ownership.

The necessity of integration

 When I think of an “integrated” leadership mindset, it is often helpful to first consider the opposite, more frequently encountered organizational condition: one in which leadership is focused on individual, siloed components of the business, rather than the performance of the organization as a whole.

In contrast, an organization led with an integrated leadership mindset is one whose leaders are working together toward a shared vision for that enterprise. They see the whole of the challenge, across the organization, and are prepared to move forward together with coordinated action—above and across any operational silos.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Many CEOs are fully aware that silos and disaggregation prevent successful strategic advancement, and they see strategic integration as a key goal. Nevertheless, they struggle to achieve it: The traditional toolkit of new systems, processes and structure doesn’t have the necessary effect.

The reason that integration remains out of reach is deceptively simple. Strategic integration isn’t catalyzed through the usual changes to process or structure but is instead empowered by human mindset. Leaders without an integrated mindset will, when faced with challenges, view them with a bias toward what they feel they can control and where they feel their authority lies. It’s a very natural response, anchored in the desire to avoid exposure and control personal risk.

When those leaders develop an integrated leadership mindset, they view those same challenges in a different light—looking not only from the interests of their unit and their team but also from how those challenges can be tackled across organizational boundaries and interfaces, taking advantage of the compound benefit of the combined skillsets of the whole organization while minimizing the efficiency losses that come with approaching the “whole” only from the parts.

The power of owning the whole

Where an integrated mindset empowers the development of business strategy, successful strategy implementation is a matter of ownership mindset.

“Ownership” is often used as a synonym for “accountability.” In this conventional sense, it describes a role that’s assigned to someone in the context of a project or a process. But I instead invite leaders to consider ownership as another leadership mindset through which every individual on a leadership team can own the success of the entire team and further own the whole of the success of the strategy they are executing.

When a strategy is executed by all players with the whole in mind, very significant commitment becomes a natural behavior. When a leadership team embodies ownership, it is the truest sign that they are wholly aligned to a shared strategic vision and operating as “one team.” This alignment—owning the whole—gives them the power to drive remarkable business growth and organizational advancement.

The critical role of mindset

In theory, these principles seem simple and intuitive. Yet in practice, especially in the face of complexity, they can be difficult to achieve. But if you are pursuing an ambitious strategy, it is essential to do so; the degree to which integrated and ownership mindsets are present or missing in any executive team sets the stage for whether a strategy will flourish or flounder.

Assessing your strategic readiness

An evaluation of strategic readiness through the lens of mindset can be of significant value to an organization. The starting point is to examine an organization to see its level of integration and the degree of ownership mindset in play, as its leaders are working to formulate or execute a strategy. In conversations with CEOs, I frame this beginning in three key steps:

  1. Decide if you need an integrated strategy. Will there be value in a strategy that aligns the entire leadership team with a shared vision? (The answer here is most often “Yes.”)

  2. Conduct a diagnostic audit of your team’s leadership mindset. Do they behave with an integrated mindset, outside their native areas of influence and control? How and to what degree do they demonstrate ownership of the whole of the strategy’s success?

  3. Create inclusive approaches to strategy formulation and execution. For instance, bring your leaders into the process and engage them in working toward the whole, rather than only on their discrete parts.


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