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#2  Can You Imagine Success Without These?

Can you imagine a business being successful without these three factors being right?

Leadership, Strategy and Execution.

Take the Quiz


So what?  You probably knew this, too.  The challenge is not what great leaders know, but how difficult it is to say exactly what comprises these three, how they interact with each other, and the order in which issues across the company in these three drivers need to be addressed.

We will explain each of these in detail, but for now let’s start with a basic idea of what each encompasses and why these so important.

Leadership focuses on ensuring people know WHY the business is important, WHY working there is important, WHY individual people are important, and WHY doing the right thing is important.  Through this they are able to attract and keep great people, and keep them committed through good times and bad.  They create energy, persistence and will in the organization. It gives them the skill and courage to make good, if tough decisions.  It maintains the focus on customers. It becomes the example that the organization will follow. It is the result of disciplined people. It is the ability to inspire and engage a company’s workforce and anyone else the business needs to succeed.

Strategy is the direction the business will relentlessly focus on that anticipates the future, differentiates it from competition in ways targeted customers value, and makes it increasingly difficult for others to duplicate or derail. It determines WHERE the business will compete, and HOW it will build a competitive advantage.  It is the shrewdness of the organization and its competitive effectiveness in its chosen market place that drives revenue. Strategy drives revenue, and comes from disciplined thought.  It is the ability to outthink competitors.

Execution is the ability to get the most important things done well.  Execution is the productivity of the organization.  It drives customer satisfaction with your quality, price, and value.  It creates customer loyalty and advocacy.  It creates the right actions through WHO will do WHAT by WHEN. Execution is the driver of productivity and therefore, profit, and is the result of disciplined action.  It is the ability to out-execute competitors.

Together these create customer loyalty and advocacy, which drives market position.  Together, these create the ability to outperform competitors.  Competitive advantage.

Leadership, strategy and execution are not states of being.   To be a strong leader, to create a strategy that works, to execute well is not a one-time step.  These are the result of a series of many ah-has, decisions and actions in a conscious and consistent direction.  Jim Collins in his book Good to Great describes this as the flywheel effect². The more the learning, decisions and actions of the organization move in the right direction (discipline), the harder it is to undermine the strength of leadership, strategy and execution (competitive advantage.)  This is how they work together.

 How the Three Success Drivers Work Together¹


Strong leaders also understand that there is a vital order to pursuing the development of leadership (disciplined people), strategy (disciplined thought) and execution (disciplined action): Leadership must come before strategy, and strategy before execution.

Strong execution without the guidance of a strategy that works simply rides down the wrong track at a faster pace. It is impossible to achieve strong execution without also having a committed organization created through strong leadership.  And finally, it is very difficult to pursue the disciplined thought that an effective strategy requires without strong leadership clarity — defining why.

 The Right Order is Essential

Success Factor Order

Most everyone today is starts with and gets stuck in execution, on a constant treadmill to improve execution enough to overcome hurdles in leadership and strategy.  Is my manufacturing lean enough?  Is my website and social media right?  Are my sales people effective?  Should I install and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software?  Am I making quarterly goals? Do I need new marketing materials?

The list is endless and the chase for improvement endless.  Order is important.  Execution improvement initiatives rarely get promised (or hoped for) results without the strength in leadership and business strategy.

Of course, now the hard part begins.  What exactly comprises strong leadership, a strategy that works, and execution that gets results? How do I build strength in each of these?  Where should I start?

Ask a dozen successful leaders … get a dozen different answers.  Ask them once, get part of the answer.  Ask them again, and get a bit more.  This is what they intuitively know, but can’t tell you … or at least have a great deal of difficulty laying it out in a way that others can see can see,  understand and act on.

This is part #2 in a series — but is also intended to stand alone.  Coming up: part #3 – we’ll show you the whole picture – What strong leaders can’t tell you – the few critical success factors in leadership, strategy and execution.  We hope you’ll join in!

Simplifying Complexity 


¹ © 2012 Bill Howe. The leadership equation and model was developed by Bill Howe, founding partner of Growth Engine Group. All rights reserved. ² Good to Great – The Flywheel Effect, Jim Collins, Fast Company, October 2001