Good leadership is not only about effective functioning or active implementation, it is about strategic planning. Planning not towards a goal or an end, butin maintaining a proactive outlook towards the environment that is constantly developing. It is important for a good leader to anticipate changes in the external or internal environment, to look at this dynamic environment through innovative eyes and to then be able to make some strong decisions in tentative situations. As a strategic planner, you may not always have all the information you need before you can make that decision and it is up to the leader to make those bold decisions and also get others onboard. Paul Schoemaker, research director for Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, calls the ability to do these things not a skill, but a discipline, that is to say in three ways. One, it is a discipline in terms of it being based on knowledge; a strategic leader requires a strong knowledge base. Two, it is a discipline in the sense that it requires being disciplined, having focus and following through. Third, it requires a lot of practice to be proficient in any discipline, and so does this ability. The usage of the term discipline in this context ensures that these skills are not looked upon rigidly but as just a framework that could use tailoring toward its environmental setting.
Strategic leaders need to not only be active in the planning of a strategy but also in its execution. With the uncertainty of the environment, the plan may not always execute the way it is meant to, and it will take a strategic person to foresee some obstacles and make changes as the execution is in progress. It would also benefit a leader to recognize in others the need for strategizing and to help them imbibe the basic elements, thus making such leadership available on more levels.
Shoemaker gives examples of leaders who were successful in implementing the discipline of strategic leadership and those who were not. According to him, one of the successful strategic leaders in the world to learn from is Charles O. Holliday, the CEO of DuPont, who back in 2007 had begun to register signs of a recession. The signs might have been insignificant; he noticed that reservations at his hotel were down. Another time when he was in Japan, a Japanese customer who was short of cash wanted to get postponements of payments. And then the auto companies would not share their production plans. He began to put together information he was receiving and survived the recession better than most. An example of unsuccessful strategizing would be the Lego company. The companywas almost bankrupt after manyyears of immense success. They did not expect for games to become electronic and for Lego to subsequently lose value, especially with the newer generation. Reading and understanding such leaders, both successful and unsuccessful, can be hugely beneficial in building proficiency for the discipline of strategic leadership.