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What It Means to Be an Industry Leader

What It Means to Be an Industry Leader

Consultants' research on executive competencies finds top performers influence the direction of their companies and industries

The C-level competency of strategic orientation is the ability to think long term, strategically, and beyond one's own area to plan against larger issues. It depends on complex thinking abilities, both analytical (cause-and-effect chains) and conceptual (patterns). It isn't just "the vision thing" — the emphasis is on business strategy, not vivid images. The strategies must incorporate specific business issues, and in many cases propose action, or at least be so clear that anyone knowing those strategies can use them to make decisions for action.

Basic performance in this competency is understanding others' strategic priorities and appreciating opportunities for long-term change. Moderate performance comes when one begins to generate actual plans, translating from a larger corporate or divisional strategy down to something applicable to one's own area. At this point, to improve performance, an executive must challenge or drive the strategy of the larger organization, not just that of his or her own area.

Thereafter, strategic orientation performance gains come from the progressively greater scope of a leader's strategic thought, so that at the highest level, the executive either is developing a strategy that incorporates multiple businesses and integrates a complex variety of different and possibly conflicting businesses, or is developing a strategy that can transform the nature of the business itself. For The Options Clearing Executive Vice President and CIO John Von Stein, the scope for strategy as it relates to operations and capability planning is the whole options industry.

Are You Ready for a Strategic Orientation?

Once you understand the focus and scope of a strategic orientation, it's important to consider your organization's predisposition toward strategic leadership, as well as your own capability to contribute. Some questions to consider include:

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