The Three Dimensions of Strategic Leadership by Gary T. Hartfield

The Three Dimensions of Strategic Leadership by Gary T. Hartfield

The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less. He who thinks he leads but has no followers, is only taking a walk. —John Maxwell

As a business leader, I practice and coach my management team on three dimensions of strategic leadership. So what are the three dimensions of strategic leadership? I propose that they are operations leadership, people leadership, and relationship leadership.

The three dimensions of strategic leadership are mutually inclusive. In order for a strategic leader to realize maximum outcome for the organization, all three dimensions must be fully exercised in unison.

First, operations leadership is the ability to identify compliance requirements, customer service requirements, human resource capacity, financial resources, and technology capability. After the careful assessment of these, operational leaders must lead teams in analyzing and understanding the operational and tactical realities of the organization. They must craft the supporting infrastructure and framework to allow everyone to move tactically toward the achievement of the organization’s strategic plan through the operational framework of processes and systems.

Second, people leadership is the delicate balance of leading by example, providing staff with the tools to do their job effectively, and maintaining structure. As a people leader, it is important that your staff see you exemplify the level of commitment that you are asking of them. As the old adage says, people may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do. Likewise, it is essential that you provide your staff with the resources they need to do their job effectively. Nothing is more frustrating for your talent than being asked to complete a task without being given the necessary resources to start and/or complete the assignment. For example, if you give your staff members 100 gallons of responsibility but only 75 gallons of gas to work with, they will run out of gas before the task is complete – creating frustration and dissention. Furthermore, maintaining structure is another key element of people leadership. When individuals understand the organization’s strategic plan and organizational policies, they are more likely to buy-in to the organizational culture and go above and beyond to support the success of the organization.

Finally, relationship leadership is critical to strategic leadership and organizational success. Building and fostering relationships with internal and external stakeholders will help further business initiatives and create allies. The key to developing access to decision makers is primarily based on who you know and what their perception is of your organization. Therefore, strategic relationships require that our relationship with all stakeholders be deliberate and genuine. As illustrated in operational and people leadership, the staff also plays an integral role in relationship leadership. Key to relationship leadership is empowering all members of the organization to be ambassadors. Creating a culture of relationship-building starts with effective operations and empowered staff that have clear measures of where the organization is going and how you plan to get there.

How do we lead in ways that position a business for the future while meeting current demands? As illustrated, it requires an additional set of skills beyond operational leadership. Strategic leadership requires us to think, act, and influence others in ways that promote the enduring success of the organization.

John Maxwell’s Law of Influence states that positively impacting people to follow you is the essential test of a leader. If people will not follow you, you are not an effective leader.