Introduction: Changing the Paradigm of Modern Organization Leaders

In discussions with entrepreneurs and managers, a common management dilemma often emerges, encapsulated in these words: “Despite our company’s strong performance, there’s a pressing need to unite our management team more effectively around our vision and objectives. By achieving greater coherence in these areas, we can secure more robust and lasting results.” This strategic challenge, whether articulated or not, is the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, especially recognized by top management. Disappointingly, it is sometimes perceived as a shortfall in management competencies. However, as we will later explain, this issue primarily stems from a dissonance in leadership, leading to organizational misalignment.

Section 1: The Art of Turning Declared Strategy into Tangible Outcomes

What distinguishes the leadership of an outperforming organization?This question is complex, considering various factors like financial results, customer satisfaction, sustained performance, and employee retention. It’s a challenge to address in a brief article, but we can offer some insightful observations.
Leaders of market-leading organizations often communicate their vision with a compelling urgency. Our field experience, supported by literature in business, policy, and history, indicates that the more emotionally charged and counterintuitive a vision – often arising from “out-of-the-box” thinking – the more effectively it motivates
organizational members.
Significant shifts in mindsets and behaviors originate from moments that deeply resonate emotionally. Such moments ignite the spark of change, engaging people at all levels in the organization’s mission.
However, the critical question remains: How does an organization translate this vision into daily business practice? Is there a blueprint for success?

Section 2: Leadership Thought Processes

Strategies are frequently conveyed through business plans filled with numbers, tables, ratios, and graphs. Managers, who are committed to numbers and market targets, often start to implement the plans they have just seen and heard from the boss as soon as they step out of the meeting room. However, without a clear understanding of the company’s direction and objectives, employees often perceive these tasks as mere extensions of their superiors’ Management by Objectives (MBOs).
Top-tier companies focus on communicating strategy through high, visionary values, akin to a grand mission.

This approach inspires the entire organization to follow the leaders in a tide of emotions and passion. Successful leaders continually align their vision and overall objectives with every organizational level. They leverage the leadership qualities
distributed across various roles, enabling team members not only to act in alignment with the corporate mission but also to adapt their behaviors in unforeseen situations.
This adaptability, essential in rapidly changing industries, enables swift, effective responses to operational challenges and facilitates bottom-up feedback for management recalibration.

Looking at the various crises that have hit the Italian and world economy in recent years (e.g. Lehman, the sovereign debt crisis and COVID) it must be noted that the highest rate of resilience was precisely that recorded by the medium enterprise. The turnover of medium-sized enterprises, apart from three years (2009, 2012 and 2020), has grown in the period 1996 -2020 (+109%).

Section 3: Drawing Lessons from Historical Leaders and Their Visionary Success

Reflecting on historical figures can provide insights into visionary leadership. Consider Julius Caesar’s address to his troops before crossing the Rubicon, a speech that motivated them to face overwhelming odds with courage and conviction, despite the risks and illegality of their mission. Similarly, Steve Jobs’ 1983 declaration at the Aspen Design Conference laid the groundwork for what would become the iPad, a product he introduced 27 years later. Another example of visionary leadership is without a doubt Gian Paolo Montalti, who led the Italian National Volleyball Team (2003-2007) to outstanding achievements, including two European golds and Olympic silver. His leadership philosophy is best encapsulated in his words: “when a leader manages to instill heart and passion in his team, two elements that make performance extraordinary, the transition from a team to a group is achieved.” These examples underscore the power of visionary leadership in shaping the course of history and industry.

Medium-sized enterprises have also shown a high propensity to invest in Industry 4.0 (76% of medium-sized enterprises have made investments in 4.0 technology in the last 5 years).

Last but not least, in a phase also characterized by a growing and structural shortage of candidates, medium-sized enterprises – thanks also to increased competitiveness and investments in technology – still remain very interested in attracting new “talents”.

Section 4: The Significance of Organizational Coherence

Why Organizational Alignment Is Key to Visionary Success Leadership is essential at every level within an organization. It is only when; each individual possesses the ability to lead in their respective roles and situations that the organization can effectively move toward its declared vision and mission. This approach fosters a culture where everyone contributes to outstanding performance.
The strategic process typically involves several key components:

1. Corporate Level Strategy: This pertains to the highest decisions regarding where a firm competes and how it allocates its resources.

2. Business Level Strategy: This focuses on how a company competes in a specific industry or market. It’s about gaining an advantage over competitors and is also known as competitive strategy.Beyond these, successful companies incorporate a third element: Strategic Leadership. This concept extends beyond executive ranks to individuals and teams across the organization. Strategic leadership serves as the driving force behind the learning engine that brings clarity and focus to the strategy. This is achieved through:

  • Strategic Thinking: This involves cognitive and social processes that lead to a shared understanding of the complex relationship between the organization and its environment. It also includes using this understanding to shape the organization’s future.
  • Strategic Acting: This is about taking decisive action in line with the strategic direction, despite the inherent ambiguity, chaos, and complexity of organizational life. At its core, it involves transforming strategic thinking into priorities for collective action.
  • Strategic Influence: This is about creating commitment to the organization’s strategic direction by engaging others in the strategic process, building relationships both within and beyond the organizational culture and systems of influence.

Another critical aspect is Organizational Design and Maintenance.
For effective strategic thinking, acting, and influencing, an organization must be well- designed and continuously maintained. Companies where these qualities are consistently present across the organization are better positioned to achieve satisfactory success on their roadmap towards their goals.

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