Only 8% of leaders are good at both strategy and execution according to the Harvard Business Review article by Paul Leinwand, Cesare Mainardi, and Art Kleiner. That is a bit shocking. Expectations – Strategic and Tactical is one of the Executive Presence attributes in our book, “Seeing Yourself as Others Do – Authentic Executive Presence at Any Stage of Your Career”
The HBR authors surveyed 700 executives in multiple industries. Only 16% were rated very effective at either strategy or execution, and just 8% were seen as effective at both. The authors identified that those who were strongest in those attributes were able to move easily back and forth between strategy and tactics, as we note in our book. They are able to clearly connect the components of execution that are needed to achieve the strategy. They are also able to frame the context for all actions in the context of the strategy they support.
Those who are good at strategy and execution have a high regard for the importance of a strong culture that they personally model to the organization. They maintain a strong awareness of the external influences on the future of the organization. They make sure they build the talent needed to support the future strategy and execution.
Can you teach someone to be strategic?
It is not uncommon to hear the question, “Can you teach someone to be strategic?” These questions are normally regarding someone who is seen as executing well in multiple situations. The company wants to promote her to a senior level. My belief is that you cannot teach someone to significantly improve their strategic abilities. However, in 80% of those situation, the person in question is very strategic in her thought. She thinks it should be so obvious that she shouldn’t need to talk about strategy. What she needs to learn is to talk more strategically. We have seen amazing transitions. (We talk about this in our book). Looking at the methodology for the study it is not clear if they identified those that think strategically, but do not talk strategically.
Target Stores Talent Development
Many years ago, I saw Target Stores build growth strategy and execution into their five-year plans. They had the capital to grow more quickly than they chose to grow. The limiting factor was the development of store managers and other key leaders to support the new store growth. Their plan required a realistic talent assessment and succession plans that detailed where the leadership would come from to make stores successful. As a result, their strategy and execution were both considered to be critical to their success. It served them well.
The results of the HBR article were: