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Strategy As Leadership: A New Framework For Business Navigation

Ben Laker Contributor
Expert commentary on global affairs for leaders everywhere
Publicado lunes 18 de septiembre de 2023

Organizations today find themselves in an environment where adaptation isn’t just advantageous; it’s crucial. Those that fail to evolve in response to emerging trends and challenges risk falling behind, ultimately becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

Central to this is a growing recognition of the ‘Strategy as Leadership’ concept. No longer is strategy seen merely as a blueprint for future actions or a path to achieving targets. Instead, it is increasingly viewed as a vital leadership tool, enabling companies to nimbly confront and navigate the myriad challenges that define the global economy.

This shift in perspective is lucidly articulated in Roberto Vassolo and Natalia Weisz’s influential book Strategy as Leadership: Facing Adaptive Challenges in Organizations. Published last year by Stanford University Press, the title sheds light on the profound implications of integrating strategy with leadership, offering companies a beacon as they sail through the turbulent waters of change and competition.

Recognizing Patterns in Change

Contrary to the common perception that business landscapes are inherently unpredictable, Vassolo and Weisz—both professors at Argentina’s IAE Business School—present a perspective that paints a more methodical and structured picture of the commercial world. Rather than considering changes as mere random occurrences, they emphasize the presence of discernible patterns that play out over time.

The challenge many firms face is, therfore, not necessarily an inability to anticipate the future, but a failure to recognize and capitalize on these recurring trends specific to their industries. For instance, certain technological breakthroughs or shifts in regulatory frameworks might follow a cyclical pattern. By identifying and understanding these repetitive trends, businesses can gain a significant competitive advantage. This proactive recognition allows firms to strategically prepare and align themselves with these anticipated shifts, ensuring they are poised to capitalize on opportunities, rather than being caught off guard and negatively affected.

The Hidden P&L Framework

The Hidden P&L Framework offers a nuanced view of business strategy by emphasizing the importance of both seizing growth opportunities, represented by ‘P’ for priorities, and managing potential risks, symbolized by ‘L’ for losses. By simultaneously addressing these dual facets, this approach allows firms to outline their ambitions and strategic direction, while also highlighting potential pitfalls. These could manifest in various forms, including financial setbacks, the loss of key talent, the erosion of brand value, and overlooked avenues for growth.

Illustratively, a renowned tech company that ventured into the smartwatch arena experienced initial triumphs but failed to consider looming challenges, typified by rapid technological obsolescence and fierce market competition. This oversight in their hidden P&L resulted in a decline in their market foothold and a waning brand loyalty. However, when the company later embraced this holistic framework, they adjusted their course by ramping up R&D efforts and forging alliances with leading fitness brands. This realignment, powered by the insights from the Hidden P&L Framework, underscores its pivotal role in guiding companies towards a balanced and sustainable growth trajectory.

Bear in mind that organizations often harbor a deep-rooted, albeit unspoken, apprehension about incurring losses, which can lead to inertia and resistance to change—underscoring the importance of strategic foresight.

In every strategic planning initiative, therefore, it becomes paramount for leaders to draw connection between emerging priorities, informed by the current market and economic landscape, and the associated potential losses. Recognizing these losses, which various teams or divisions within an organization might face when responding to new challenges, is instrumental in preempting and addressing internal roadblocks, fostering a culture of adaptability, and ensuring a long-term success trajectory.

The metamorphosis of strategy into a leadership instrument transcends mere academic discussions; it strikes at the heart of today’s commercial landscape. In an era where change is the only constant, the way enterprises approach strategy defines their trajectory. It’s no longer sufficient for companies to merely have a strategy; they must embody it through leadership.

The revelations from Vassolo and Weisz’s work—recently taught to Wharton Executive MBA students—indicate that firms can no longer afford to view strategy and leadership as separate entities. By doing so, they risk missing out on the cyclical patterns that can spell the difference between success and obsolescence. Furthermore, without understanding the hidden P&L, establishments might remain blind to looming threats and untapped opportunities.

For enterprises, the ‘Strategy as Leadership’ paradigm underscores a call to action. It’s a call for leaders to immerse themselves deeply into their organizations’ strategic fabric, guide with foresight, and cultivate adaptability at every level. Evidently, it is also a reminder that in the modern commercial realm, leadership is not just about spearheading teams but about steering the entire strategic direction of the entity.

And so, as firms ponder their next steps, they must reflect on this intertwining of strategy and leadership. After all, the future belongs to those who not only adapt but lead their adaptation.