To navigate through the perilous waters of our current business climate, we are challenged to not only think strategically, but to lead strategically. We are being summoned to the table by our clients to collaborate on strategic platforms that will support growth initiatives, and help to achieve broad-based corporate objectives.
So, what does it mean to lead strategically? It is imperative to understand this concept. The whole idea of leading strategically is exactly what corporate real estate clients are asking us to do, in order to achieve the objectives of cost reduction, space efficiency, internal organizational changes of collaboration, and globalization.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills,” the authors, Schoemaker, Krupp and Howland, explain that through their research of more than 20,000 executives, they identified six skills that, when mastered and used in concert, allow leaders to think strategically and effectively navigate the unknown. These skills include the abilities to anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align, and learn.
There is familiarity in all of these skills in isolation; however the authors have made a paradigm shift in defining leadership:
“An adaptive strategic leader is someone who is resolute and flexible, persistent in the face of setbacks, but also able to react strategically to environmental shifts, while applying all six leadership skills at once. Do you have the right networks to help you see opportunities before competitors do? Are you comfortable challenging your own and others’ assumptions? Can you get a diverse group to buy in to a common vision? Do you learn from mistakes?”
Let’s briefly look at each skill, and apply it to our industry:
• Anticipate. “Strategic leaders are constantly vigilant, honing their ability to anticipate by scanning the environment for signals of change.” Commercial real estate (CRE) executives and their suppliers are being vigilant in addressing technological changes, resulting in more mobility or sustainability changes beyond environmental to include social aspects, such as diversity and workplace health.
• Challenge. “Strategic thinkers question the status quo. They challenge their own and others’ assumptions and encourage divergent points of view. Only after careful reflection and examination of a problem through many lenses do they take decisive action. This requires patience, courage and an open mind.”
• Interpret. “Strategic thinkers interpret by synthesizing all the input they have. They recognize patterns, push through ambiguity, and seek new insights.” CRE suppliers must learn to glean new insights through not just sharing data but building business intelligence in order to help clients create a strategic platform/initiative.
• Decide. “Balance long-term investment for growth with short-term pressure for results. Determine trade off, risks, and unintended consequences for customers and other stakeholders when making decisions.”
• Align. “Assess stakeholders’ tolerance and motivation for change and also pinpoint and address conflicting interests among stakeholders.”
• Learn. “Communicate stories about success and failure to promote institutional learning.”
All six skills, when used simultaneously, creates strategic leaders who can spark positive change within their organizations and those of the clients they serve. Our CRE clients are asking us to become shared partners in understanding key support functions throughout their organizations: globalization, technology, sustainability, portfolio optimization, and asset management. We can only come along beside them if we strategically gain a broad-based knowledge of their business through strategic leadership.
I believe we are no longer just corporate real estate suppliers, but we have evolved into strategic leaders, offering business strategy services that will include learning and growing in the skills listed above.
Lisa Gardner, a former executive with both PepsiCo and J.C. Penney, heads up consulting and strategy development for OMS Strategic Advisors. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.