Thursday, September 14, 2017
Book Review: 'The Strategic Leader's Roadmap' by Harbir Singh and Michael Useem
This is one of those books whose greatest value, in my opinion, will be to those who are now preparing for a career in business or have only recently embarked on one and need a primer, and, to those in middle management who need a reminder of basics that are too easily forgotten or compromised. There are no head snapping revelations in this book, nor do Harbir Singh and Michael Useem make any such claim. Rather, they focus on what they believe are the six essential steps to integrating leadership and strategy.
Today’s business world is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I remember. Various trends, shifts, and (yes) disruptions pose unique challenges. A manager’s ability to integrate strategy with leadership is also of greater value than at any prior time that I remember.
According to Singh and Useem, “We define leading strategically as mastering the elements of strategy and leadership both separately and as an integrated whole. It entails applying them together, and continuously drawing on both as markets morph, disruptions occur, and openings arise. In framing strategy and leadership as a single unified discipline, we are seeking to see both components applied consistently and completely. Just one or the other will not suffice.”
Singh and Useem cover as much ground in a volume of only 107 pages as authors of many other business books do in 300 0r more pages. Their coverage is by no means definitive but certainly sufficient to serve most managers’ purposes. They make brilliant use of one reader-friendly device they call a “Box.” Each is an annotated checklist of key points. There are 14, listed now to suggest their scope of coverage:
1. The Strategic Leader’s Checklist
2. Setting Company Strategy
3. Features of Competitive Positioning
4. Leading the Company
5. Integrating Strategy and Leadership: Two Key Questions
6. Integrating Strategy and Leadership
7. Learn to Lead Strategically
8. Ensuring Strategic Fit
9. Conveying Strategic Intent
10. Layering Leadership
11. Deciding Deliberatively
12. The Strategic Leader’s Checklist: Carlos Ghosn
13. Execution: From Strategic Diagnosis to Implementable Initiatives
14. The Strategic Leader’s Checklist: John Chambers
They also make brilliant use of several “Tables” and “Figures” that also highlight key points. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of material later.
However different they may be in many (if not most) respects, all of the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for as well as most profitable have strategic leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. They have developed people who have indeed mastered the elements of strategy and leadership both separately and as an integrated whole. Harbir Singh and Michael Useem have created a roadmap to guide and inform that process. They also function as guides for those who embark on that journey.
I agree with them that “becoming a strategic leader oneself and developing strategic leadership in others is one of the greatest calling of our era…And though we sometimes say that an individual is a gifted strategist or a natural-born leader, we know from research and experience that both are learned — and that we can all become strategic leaders if we stay on the right path. Self-directed learning, personal coaching, and stretch experience provide the proven avenue for getting there.”
Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.