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Strategic Leadership: Are We There Yet?

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin is editor-in-chief for PM Solutions Research, and the author, co-author and editor of over twenty books on project management, including the 2007 PMI Literature Award winner, The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Second Edition.

Our friends over at strategy+business are involved in a fascinating research study that seeks to discover the qualities of leaders who excel at executing strategy.

At first glance, one might think that formulating and executing strategy must be Thing One for leaders of organizations, but in fact, research by PwC shows that only about 8 percent of leaders are good at both skills. What's needed is not strategic formulation and then, separately, strategic execution, but "strategy through execution."

In his article about the research, strategy+business editor Art Kleiner mentions the work of authors Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi, whose book Strategy That Works talks about “translating the strategic into the everyday.” This struck me as a perfect description of what project and program managers do: taking ideas, visions, plans and strategies and making things (or events, programs, changes) happen. Tackling the challenge of merging the tactical strength of project management with the strategic insight of portfolio management has been a focus here at PM Solutions and PM College ever since we wrote our handbook, Seven Steps to Strategy Execution (which, by the way, has a foreword by Art Kleiner.)

But for those who aspire to be great leaders, more is required, says Kleiner. He points to “10 Principles of Strategy through Execution,” by Ivan de Souza, Richard Kauffeld, and David van Oss, who describe describe strategic leadership as the ability to “think about the technical and operational details of a project in depth and then, without missing a beat, consider its broader ramifications for the industry.”

This big-picture thinking is something PM College has been calling on practictioners to develop, and plays an critical role in our approach to leadership training.

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