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Leading the Way: From Social Influence to Strategy Execution

Though executive leadership has existed since before the days of Alexander the Great, the most widely accepted definition of leadership is just about 15 years old. An Integrative Theory of Leadership describes leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”  While some people scoff at the notion of leadership as a social activity, leadership fails to exist without the cooperative efforts of multiple parties – from simple project management all the way up to executive decision-making. But beyond the social aspect of leadership comes strategy and execution, two hot topics melded together in today’s management sector.  

The problem, as one strategy execution advocate put it, “Too many CEOs and other leaders today are uncertain about their role in executing strategy. Too often they relegate this and miss an important opportunity to perform the role of Chief Execution Officer.” 

In this highly competitive era, getting things done is what separates leaders from great ones. Consider Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer, a prominent executive who made her mark at Google early on as an engineer before heading up user experience. Those who knew Mayer at Google praised her leadership ability because she knew how to strategize and worked diligently with the engineers to execute ideas that would benefit not only the company, but also the search engine’s users. 

For leaders, there are a few ways to increase execution without losing sight of how leadership works. This can mean approaching execution as a process, outlining steps that stem from visualizing the strategy to rewarding performance once it is successfully executed. Or a series of disciplines that include focus on the most impactful strategies, the definition of a system of measurements, employee engagement, and accountability. 

Leadership goes far beyond just putting a person in charge. Strategizing, inspiring, influencing, and executing – especially executing - are all part and parcel of the role.