A discussion earlier today with a very experienced and successful colleague got on to the subject of senior leaders and the 'art' of strategic leadership. In his view, many senior leaders confuse the tactical with the strategic - sometimes deliberately as a way to keep apparently busy and yet avoid tackling the really big issues or facing up to the need for a bold, clear vision. Our shared experience of Boards has illustrated how ill-prepared and reluctant many Directors and other senior leaders are to take on the panoramic view of the whole organisation and its universe - preferring to remain within their 'discipline' of Finance, Marketing, Engineering or whatever.
Unfortunately, if senior leaders remain rooted in their functional role, the creation of a whole-organisation and strategic vision becomes virtually impossible and we develop instead the 'council of war of tribal chiefs' that so many board meetings turn out to be.
Worrying, on a number of levels. Wasn't this the very problem the MBA was designed to solve? Our discussion made evident that 20 years or more of MBA growth hasn't sufficiently lifted the sights of many senior teams, neither, apparently has it brought a more holistic grasp of the many strands and disciplines of strategic leadership to the boardrooms of UKPLC.
Is this evidence of a dearth of creative thinking in our senior leaders?
Or evidence that we value, and therefore promote, the 'wrong' skills and capabilities - seeking a safe pair of hands and the low-risk option rather than embracing the maverick or the disruptive influence?
More importantly: how can we hope to be truly visionary and strategic, to be innovative and entrepreneurial when the people who exhibit these characteristics and 'think differently' are so often marginalised or attacked like a virus?
The world is changing radically and at unprecedented speed. We face the toughest challenges since WWII.
Where are the strategic leaders?