Eagle Eyes

Like the horizons for breadth and the ocean for depth, the understanding of a good leader is broad and deep.
Proverbs 25:3

An eagle's eyes are at least four times sharper than a human. This allows an eagle to see a rabbit from a mile in the air, and swoop down for an afternoon treat. The eagle cannot only see much farther than a human; it can also discern opportunities, diving down to take advantage of them. Leaders need to have similar vision—seeing opportunities from further away and then capturing them quickly.

I'm frequently asked to define the ideal leader. My consistent response is "a strategic thinker and tactical implementer." In your leadership, you should aspire to acquire these two capabilities or, if you lack one, to partner with someone who can complement you.

In his book Visionary Leadership, Burt Nanus defines a vision as "a realistic, credible, attractive future for your organization. It is your articulation of a destination toward which your organization should aim, a future that is better, more successful, or more desirable of your organization than is the present." Nanus contends that the right vision "is an idea so energizing that it in effect jump-starts the future by calling forth the skills, talents, and resources to make it happen." There are tremendous strategic thinkers who can develop visions as described by Nanus. Often though, these thinkers cannot successfully implement their visions, and they either remain dreams or frustrating failures.

On the other hand, there are some great tacticians and managers who can ensure a plan is executed--they just can't develop one. They lack a "big picture" perspective, and often prefer to maintain and optimize the current operation, rather than step out into new territory. Their companies often fail to grow and sometimes fail completely.

When I led Epcot, I developed a vision for the park, which led to a four-point strategy. Using that strategy, we developed a multi-year tactical plan, with prioritized objectives for each year. Everyone knew the vision, strategy and specific tactics for their area, and we could measure our progress on a regular basis. It was amazing to see the ideas that were generated by the leaders and front line Cast Members once they knew the vision and strategy.

The surpassing leader is able to fly at a high level, envisioning where the organization is today, and where it can be in the future. She sees the potential barriers and charts a path around them. Then, she is able to translate the vision into a tactical plan, and ensure the tactical plan is followed. When necessary, she can easily change from the 30,000-foot level, and swoop down into the details as a problem arises. Her company, employees and community benefit from this ideal leader.

Action Items

Are you a strategic thinker and tactical implementer?
If you lack ability in one of the two areas, either work on building it up or partner with someone who can help you.
What is your vision for your organization?
Have you created a multi-year, prioritized tactical plan to bring your vision to fruition?
Have you shared your vision and plan throughout your organization and asked for implementation ideas, especially from your frontline employees?

Payoff

Leadership success, organizational alignment, leaving competitors in the dust

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