The imaginary lines we have drawn between strategy, planning and leadership have blurred. Planning processes are increasingly seen as brief but critical opportunities for leadership teams to revisit vision, strategy and focus. The plan intent is to empower key individuals and groups to see, grasp and build on possibilities to create the desired future/vision in the present. The process will also have identified barriers, blocks or systemic challenges; and all stakeholders are challenged to consciously adjust the organizational culture and environment so that the difficult becomes possible. The plan identifies clearly what must be changed if the vision is to be realized and puts transition systems in place.
Our organizations are becoming adept at knowing what they want; we have all created dynamic visions describing what success would look like and the ultimate difference we want to make. What we most need are leaders who will ONLY accept achievement of that vision and demand exemplary delivery of vision driven outcomes and results. We do not need leaders who are overcome by the internal weaknesses of the organization’s culture or by the threats imposed by the operating environment. We do not need leaders who simply build on internal strengths and leverage only the most evident opportunities.
We are indebted to Charles Smith for reintroducing us to Merlin in King Arthur’s Court, a man who lived backward from the future, who had been there and knew what was possible. Smith calls for ‘managerial Merlins’ who will personalize the organization’s dreams and build leadership teams capable of transforming themselves and their corporate cultures through creative commitment to a radically different future. They will be engaged full time in revealing the intended future in the opportunities of the present. They know that the current culture is not up to the task and utlize all of the leadership skills to transform the attitudes, capabilities, systems and resources of the organization – so that the visionary dream is increasingly seen as a reality, just around the corner. Tolerance for barriers is reduced and barrier busting is both encouraged and celebrated. Small opportunities to move forward are seized, but the real priority is to find the ‘breakthrough opportunities’. Innovation is nurtured and celebrated. The transformational leader is an ambassador for the organization’s potential and future, empowering those who believe in its possibility.
The plan begins to live. It’s vision and strategy provide the marching orders, but do no define the exact route to be taken. Plan, strategy and leadership look beyond the organization to engage clients, partner organizations and investors. Care is taken to ensure that this larger stakeholder team is ‘in the loop’ and motivated to do their part in moving forward.
Every time a signficant change or step forward is taken, leadership provides the support necessary to make sure it takes root and becomes the new way of doing business, the new culture for the organization.
“Speaking passionately from the perspective of the envisioned future, the leader creates a relationship of creative tension between the vision and the present organization.”
Charles Smith – ‘The Merlin Factor: Leadership and Strategic Intent’