Nick Tasler

Strategic Thinking

Is Your Boss a Bold Leader or a Flaky Bureaucrat?

88% of bosses with these two skills will take you and your team to new heights.

Posted Feb 02, 2013

Is Your Boss Bold and Clear or Weak and Confusing?

In complex, chaotic, and uncertain times two skills make some bosses stand head and shoulders above the rest. A new study led by Kevin Wilde, Chief Learning Officer at global food-maker, General Mills and author of Dancing with the Talent Stars, found that managers who excel at a) providing clear strategic direction and b) taking bold, decisive action are eight times more likely to be excellent leaders.

If you feel like your team at work or your career is in a rut or on a plateau, whether or not your boss possesses these two skills is a good place to start looking for the root cause.

Dynamic Duo

Wilde's results should not be terribly surprising. In a study reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2009, Strategic Thinking topped the list of most important skills for modern managers. A huge body of empirical evidence that I've written about before also indicates that people who possess an innately decisive mindset perform better on measures of everything from sales and customer service to annual incomes and job satisfaction.

What is so fascinating about Wilde’s research is his discovery of what happens when you combine these two skills in a single leader. His analysis of more than 20,000 managers from a cross-section of industries and job levels found that only one percent of managers who demonstrated sound strategic judgment were high-performing leaders if they failed to demonstrate decisive action. If that clear sense of strategic direction remains hidden between said leader’s ears, it is impossible to generate results. On the flipside, only 11% of decisive managers who lacked sound strategic judgment were among that elite group of top-performing leaders. The grimmest finding of all may be that those managers who excel in neither skill have zero chance of becoming an excellent leader, regardless of their other gifts.

But when a leader demonstrates both skills, you get what we call Strategic Behavior--a habitual pattern of strategic thinking and decisive action. And Strategic Behavior changes everything.

Strategic Behavior

A remarkable 88% of managers who have nothing else in common except the twin abilities to think strategically and act decisively end up in the top 10% of highest performing leaders across job levels, companies, and industries. That means when a leader learns how to transform those sharp strategic thoughts into bold decisive actions, it changes the entire competitive landscape for her team, and her organization.

So what kind of boss do you have?  The 8 questions below are adapted from Decision Pulse's "Decisive Leader Scale" and will give you a sense of what you're working with...literally.

1. My Boss…

a. Usually picks one big priority s/he wants our team to focus on.

b. Sometimes states a clear top priority.

c. Rarely clarifies what our top priority is.

d. Treats everything as a priority, which really means that nothing is a priority.


2. My Boss…

a. Often articulates our team’s role in the organization’s big picture strategy.

b. Occasionally connects the dots between our team and the organization’s strategy.

c. Rarely shows our team how our role fits within the big picture of the organization.

d. Never gives us any clue about why we need to do what we’re doing.


3. My boss…

a. Has a real knack for deciding which opportunities and issues most need our focus.

b. Doesn’t usually get distracted by trivial issues.  

c. Has a hard time distinguishing between real emergencies and minor hiccups.

d. Treats every issue like it’s urgent, all the time.   


4. My boss…

a. Is really good at killing pet projects that don’t align with our strategic direction.

b. Sometimes calls out pet projects that are potential distractions for our team.

c. Sometimes gets sucked into projects that don’t fit with our current focus.  

d. Chases pet projects like a dog chases cars.


5. My boss…

a. Typically acts very decisively.

b. Usually has little trouble making decisions.

c. Rarely makes decisions without waffling first.

d. Is the textbook definition of “indecisive.”  


6. My boss…

a. Almost always holds him/herself accountable for making leadership decisions.

b. Usually accepts responsibility for making leadership decisions.

c. Sometimes passes off responsibility to his/her boss or others on our team.

d. Avoids accountability like the plague.  


7. My boss…

a. Rarely puts off making tough decisions.

b. Sometimes delays tough decisions.

c. Often creates bottlenecks on our team by avoiding tough decisions.

d. Is nowhere to be found when a tough decision needs to be made.


8. My boss…

a. Is not afraid to ruffle some feathers when necessary to pursue an opportunity.

b. Has been known to push the envelope from time-to-time.

c. Rarely makes decisions without total consensus.

d. Does far more hiding than deciding.


SCORING: Give your boss

4 points for every"a";

3 points for every "b";

2 points for every "c";

1 point for every "d."

When you've added up the total, click here to see what your score means. 

About the Author

Nick Tasler is an organizational psychologist and the internationally acclaimed author of four books on change and decision making.

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