The Heart of Strategic Leadership and Strategic Management: Conundrums, Ambidextrous Agility, and Relationships

The Heart of Strategic Leadership and Strategic Management: Conundrums, Ambidextrous Agility, and Relationships

Nancy Kymn Harvin Rutigliano (SUNY Empire State College, USA), David Starr-Glass (University of New York in Prague, Czech Republic) and Angela Benedetto (University of California – Los Angeles, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch078
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In reviewing the rich and diverse chapters that have been incorporated into this Encyclopedia, a number of threads and themes emerge. This chapter, which serves as a conclusion to the Encyclopedia, explores some of these themes. All strategic work presents a fundamental conundrum: strategy requires the simultaneous commitment to what has been decided and openness to continuous change. The conundrum can be moderated, although not resolved, through a pervasive appreciation of agility and ambidexterity within the organization's culture and by its leaders. However, the strategy paradox can also be accentuated – even to the point of organizational dysfunctionality, paralysis, and destruction – by viewing strategic leadership and strategic management as two separate functions. The article explores strategy work in terms of the putative fracturing into leading and managing components, and suggests that their holistic and synergistic integrity needs to be restored. The article also explains why relations, relationships, and relationality lie at the heart of all strategy work.
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Commitment, Agility, And Ambidexterity

The conundrum inevitably materializes when organizations and their leaders engage in strategical considerations; it also features predominantly in the histories of corporations that have experienced spectacular downturns and failures, such as Nokia and Kodak (Doz & Kosonen, 2008; Raynor, 2007).

By definition, a strategic perspective “evokes peering far into the future, making strong choices and holding firm commitments, unwaveringly deploying resources to implement them, and having every senior executive single-mindedly and individually dedicated to achieving them” (Doz & Kosonen, 2008, p. 95). Strategic considerations require the making of clear and irrevocable decisions, a decisive commitment to those choices, and an equally determined commitment to their implementation. However, in the complex organizational world in which strategic decisions have to be implemented, any strategic realignment requires a significant degree of agility, a terms that “evokes staying nimble and flexible, open to new evidence, always ready to reassess past choices and change direction in light of new developments, and willing and able to turn on a dime” (p. 95).

Others have framed the strategy conundrum in terms of ambidexterity, which is the organization’s ability to simultaneously pursue and balance two disparate objectives:

  • 1.

    Manufacturing efficiency, in which the firm exploits and consumes historic and current resources, advantages, and opportunities; and

  • 2.

    Strategic flexibility, in which the firm explores and seeks out new resources, advantages, and opportunities (Adler, Goldoftas, & Levine, 1999; Blarr, 2012; Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Strategy: An intended course of action designed to attain specific goals and outcomes that are considered desirable or advantageous. Strategy is fluid and continuous revised. It critically recognizes the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organization at least as well as it recognizes the anticipated opportunities and threats in the external operating environment. Strategy is informed by past experience, present insights, and future expectations and, consequently, all strategy is accompanied by risk.

Strategy Paradox: Raynor (2007) , who developed the notion, defined the strategy paradox as follows: “The most successful firms often have more in common with failed organizations than with those that have managed merely to survive. In fact, the very traits that we have come to identify as determinants of success are also the ingredients of failure. And so it turns out that the opposite of success is not failure, it is mediocrity” (p. 1).

Leadership: The art of communicating a vision – which might initially seem distant and unattainable – and of inspiring, motivating, and empowering individuals to recognize, accept, and realize that vision.

Organizational Ambidexterity: From the Latin – two-sided, that is using both hands with equal facility. Applied metaphorically to the organization, ambidexterity recognizes that for its long-term survival the firm must be equally adept in two things: (1) The exploitation of sufficient resources, advantages, and opportunities to ensure current viability; and (2) The exploration for new resources, advantages, and opportunities to ensure its future success.

Management: The skillful art of planning, organizing, and directing the activities within an organization. Management must reconcile the organization’s ongoing day-to-day present with it future. It must also engage with, and be expressed through, people – the individuals, groups, and teams that constitute the being and vitality of any organization.

Strategy Work: The thoughtful consideration of the relationships that the organization has within its external task environment, within its internal constituents and stakeholders, and between internal and external domains. Strategy work focuses on the artful creation, strengthening, weakening, or dissolution of relational connections in order to optimize the organization’s future success and wellbeing.

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