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Bridging the Strategy and Operations Gap

A challenge for business leaders is the ability to connect their company's strategy with the operational side of their business. The shortfall, in most cases, is the inability of leaders to break down the organizational strategy far enough to be able to understand the details needed for the higher level plans to work.

In an interview conducted last year with Strategy+Business, Jack Stahl, former CEO of Coca-Cola suggested that situational leadership is the key leadership component that can help bridge the gap between strategy and the operational details.

Situational leadership is, as the name would suggest, a form of leadership which states that different circumstances call for different types of leadership. This type of leadership, proposed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, suggests that there are four different types of leadership styles, each best suited to its own set of circumstances:
  1. "Telling" - these leaders outline the roles and responsibilities of their subordinates and manage them closely. This is perhaps the most common of the four leadership styles.

  2. "Selling" - these leaders engage their subordinates more than the telling-types, and while the decision ultimately rests with the leader, the leader is also receptive to input from the staff.

  3. "Participating" - these leaders delegate all of the decision-making responsibilities to their subordinates, and only act as a participator or facilitator of the discussions.

  4. "Delegating" - as with the participating types, these leaders delegate the decision-making responsibilities to their subordinates; unlike the participating types however, these leaders do not participate in or guide the direction of the the discussions.
Surely, the telling-types are the most common examples of leadership, and the selling-types perhaps the most inspirational, but can a case be made for either of the last two leadership styles, the more hands-off participating and delegating styles?

Stahl seems to think so. CEOs must have a thorough and detailed level of knowledge of their business, and their company leaders must have a more thorough picture of the operational aspects of the business. To bridge the gap between the organization's high-level strategy and its detailed-level operations, leaders must be able to recognize which of the four styles of leadership will work for any given situation. Having leaders who have the ability to connect the strategy to the details is paramount, and having them be able to adapt to any circumstance and employ the appropriate style of leadership is equally as important.

Read the full interview.
Learn more about Situational leadership.

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