We were talking during a break in a leadership training when I realized that the young person I was visiting with thought that leadership was all about strategy and nothing else.
“Hold on,” I pointed out. “Strategic leaders are vital to the success of a company but so are operational leaders. It is the combination of the two, strategy and operations, that makes the company move forward through time successfully.”
“OK,” he responded, “but operational leaders can only do so much.”
“This is true. However, they are mission critical.”
“You and I can stand here and talk about the future all we want. We can speculate on all sorts of possibilities, but the moment of truth happens every morning when the staff and your customers or clients, which ever term you want to use, work together to create effective and meaningful solutions.”
I paused and he contemplated my perspective.
“The future shows up every day,” I continued. “We can talk about two years from now and completely forget that two years ago, today was the future. In the end, the best strategic leaders realize that they need the best operational leaders to make it real. The trains need to run on time each day. The staff needs to be well trained. The systems need to work. It is not fancy, best-seller book level stuff, but it is necessary. It’s what differentiates between good and great companies.”
“So, what do I need to do to make this happen?”, he inquired.
“Go to the place where the mission statement is made real every day. Visit with the people. Listen to their concerns, their challenges, their victories. Validate their efforts.”
“Next, do an in-depth systems review to make sure it really works like it is suppose to work. And if you learn it is not working right, then help them change it. Remember the capacity to have a future starts now. Operational excellence is nothing more than delivering on the mission each day and continually improving it.”
“I guess there is more to this leadership stuff than just thinking about the future,” he responded.
“Yes, and that is why it is so important.”
And then our break was up and we both headed into class.
Remember: the future shows up every day.