Posted on CUInsight
By Deedee Myers

Confusing levels of strategic leadership were the focus of a post last fall, during a key season for strategic planning. Last week, strategic agility was the focus of speeches at a conference for credit union board chairs and CEOs. These interesting and robust conversations amongst conference attendees included reflections and speculative questions on how to acquire or enhance strategy and agility.

So, which comes first, strategic leadership or agility? This morning, I started to create a mind map called Strategic Leadership and Organization Agility, and I struggled until I realized what was missing! The leadership type is crucial. What kinds of leaders are needed to have a sustainable organization with a viable, living strategic plan and organizational agility?

The types of leaders in your organization influence its success in strategy and agility. An abundance of strategic and visionary leaders with minimal transactors, processors, and builders roadblocks innovative and strategic thinking,. A team comprised of all process-oriented leaders, on the other hand, draws attention away from the organization’s vision and purpose.

I dusted off a piece of research from a couple years ago on the eight basic leadership archetypes. Most boards have a significant percentage of process-oriented members, and many of those boards, however, want a strategically focused CEO as part of succession planning. This dynamic is both challenging and exciting, as the board wants to act more strategically yet also has process-oriented members.

An embedded organization culture, simplistically, either has an appropriate blend of leadership archetypes or is weighted toward one or two of the eight basic archetypes. Check out these high-level archetype descriptors. Which best represent your own, your overall executive team’s, and your organization’s leadership archetype?

The Strategist

  1. Is excellent at abstract, imaginative thinking
  2. Has a long-term orientation
  3. Has the ability to see the big picture and to plan accordingly
  4. Is a great conceptualizer and can present all the options
  5. Has the capacity to think globally
  6. Can think laterally; is a groundbreaker
  7. Is excellent at aligning vision with strategy

The Change Catalyst

  1. Recognizes opportunities for organizational transformation
  2. Has a great capacity to identify and sell the need for change
  3. Is talented at entrepreneurship and prepared to take on risky, independent assignments
  4. Is always looking for new, challenging assignments
  5. Possesses a great sense of urgency
  6. Can make difficult decisions and is tough minded
  7. Has aptitude at selecting talent to get the job done

The Transactor

  1. Prefers novelty, adventure, and exploration
  2. Thrives on new challenges
  3. Is not very interested in day-to-day management
  4. Makes a great deal maker or negotiator
  5. Embraces change and has strong risk tolerance
  6. has a great talent for spotting new opportunities
  7. Is proactive, adaptive, and focused on the short term

The Builder

  1. Greatly needs to be independent and in control
  2. Has an enormous amount of energy, drive, dynamism, and enterprise
  3. Possesses enormous perseverance and a great capacity to deal with setbacks
  4. Can live with a great deal of insecurity and ambiguous situations
  5. Has the capacity to thrive under pressure due to a long-term focus
  6. Has a high but calculated risk-taking propensity
  7. Possesses moderate social skills and has difficulty dealing with authority

The Innovator

  1. Has a great drive to pursue creative and imaginative ideas
  2. Is always on the lookout for new projects and activities
  3. Is never satisfied with developing ideas and has difficulty with closure
  4. Tolerates and even enjoys complex problem solving
  5. Sets stretch goals for whatever needs to be accomplished
  6. Is not political or is quite naïve about organizational politics
  7. Is not interested in organization politics.

The Processor

  1. Has a systemic outlook and a positive attitude toward authority
  2. Is effective at turning abstract concepts into practical action
  3. Is effective at providing structure, processes, and boundaries
  4. Dislikes unstructured situations
  5. Adheres to rules and procedures
  6. Is self-disciplined, reliable, efficient, cooperative, and conscientious
  7. Is excellent at time management

The Coach

  1. Prefers novelty, adventure, and exploration
  2. Is empathic (has a high EQ), is good at listening, and inspires trust
  3. Has an affinity for people and is cooperative
  4. Is excellent at handling difficult interpersonal and group situations
  5. Has talent for creating high-performance cultures and teams
  6. Is a great developer of people and is great at giving constructive feedback
  7. Prefers participatory management


The Communicator

  1. Is excellent at communicating broad themes and the big picture
  2. Has impressive theatrical skills and talent at creating make-believe
  3. Can reframe difficult situations positively
  4. Has a talent for influencing others
  5. Is good at networking, building alliances, and attracting others’ attention
  6. Is excellent at managing various stakeholders
  7. Is not too proud to ask for outside help and use advisors or a consulting firm

 Too much of a good thing
The above descriptors highlight the advantages of each leadership archetype. How do we know there is too much of a good thing? Too much focus on strategy or vision can leave people behind in the execution; the innovator can have less-than-desired communication skills; the coach could have issues with holding people accountable; and the communicator may talk too much or neglect effective action. You get the gist. . .

Now, we come back to the question: Which comes first, strategic leadership or agility? I appreciate having an understanding of the key participants: Which people are occupying the seats on a bus, and which seats are occupied with ineffective participants? When the organization’s leadership has a blend of archetypes, the subsequent strategic conversation is facilitated differently than if the team, including the board, mostly consists of just two of the eight archetypes. The strategic outcome still needs to be relevant and timely and to perpetuate value to the stakeholders.

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