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strategic orientation

Leadership Challenges

Leaders are under increasing pressure. Leadership today is not the same as leadership 20 years ago. This has to do with the increased and accelerating changes in our society. Leader in Mind, a Düsseldorf based consultancy conducted a qualitative research on how leaders cope with those changes. Based on this research 5 clusters emerged:

  1. How to cope with unclear strategic orientation?
  2. How to achieve growth in a time where growth is limited?
  3. How to manage the quality of work?
  4. How to cope with increasing social complexity?
  5. How to shape the future and to innovate?

This blog is the first in a series of five to discuss the results of this qualitative research.

 Unclear Strategic Orientation

Leaders describe business evolution like a trip into the unknown. We are working in a fragmented context full of changes. Here are some quotes form the research:

When I have rapidly changing strategies, it’s the same as if I wouldn’t have any strategy. Then I have to take a stand and ask myself, what is my contribution?
Where do we want to go? How do we want to sell ourselves? That’s not clear. Definitely not. And that’s a weakness of our company, and our Board.
Suddenly the corporation doesn’t talk about Growth anymore, but about costs. That is strange for a sales unit.
We constantly talk about change, without knowing if the leadership wants it and without the sustainable creation of the conditions needed to have that change.
The boss finally started talking about the big corporate strategy, but every business unit has created a strategy on its own. The big picture is missing, so I have to orient myself towards the sub-strategies.

The main question is how to make sure people do not work on their isolated part, but feel a part of a vivid and constantly changing system. And how does perception and experience of such a greater organism arise?

Dialogue needed

What is needed is Dialogue. And the question is why leaders do not stimulate such a dialogue? One reason is that we still believe that leaders should have more answers then they have questions. But what leaders should do is to organise orientation. Here’s how.

Strategic Orientation

(C) 2014 Leader in Mind GmbH – Translation and Layout by

As you can see, it all comes down to organising an open and active exchange. But this requires a leadership that is not built on certainty and authority, but on authenticity and vulnerability. Or as a wise philosopher once said, knowing that you don’t know is the start of wisdom. The question is if the companies leaders work in will accept this kind of leadership.
Thanks to Anette Stein-Hanusch and Britt Wrede for sharing their work. Qualitative Research is not so popular anymore but the wealth of ideas coming from this research is high. And it brings the dialogue leaders have (also with themselves) very close to the reader. More information about the research paper can be obtained here (text in German).

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.


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