Leaders are synonymous with strategy and vision.
But setting the strategy and vision is not as big a challenge as staying true to the course. A lot of hiccups, nags, and distractions come in the way.
The first one is handling disagreements from employees within the org. Now I’m going to say a harsh but true thing:
If you let every one of your decisions be questioned and shot down, you will lose respect.
And it is of prime importance for a leader to stand up what she believes in, even if people don’t agree with her.
Charging forward with disagreements is how you earn respect. And there will always be some things that will always be idiosyncratic to your own values, vision, and conviction.
So one of the most important qualities of a good leader is massive resistance to stress and pushback. Under stress, your persona shrinks until you cannot give out a strong message anymore. And it is something that your teammates primarily look at you for.
Here's Alex Ferguson talking about a thing he had been clear on, right since the day he arrived at Manchester United in 1986:
"Conveying authority is essential in order to be an effective leader. Every time I went into a team talk I bounded in, chest out, making sure I conveyed authority and control. I never slunk in without anyone noticing."
The second one is getting constantly distracted by what the competition is doing.
You may want to match your competitor’s offering simply because he is your competitor, but what if it distracts your resources away from what you are best at, or what you are best known for?
Should Microsoft have gone into building hardware just because it was lucrative?
Should Apple start using topical memes in their brand communication just because other brands are doing it and it works for them?
If you change your strategy all the time, you don’t have one.
And if you operate without a strong long-term vision, your decisions will be purely reactive and you’ll be playing your opponent’s game, not your own.
Many leaders underestimate these two challenges. And it needs a lot of discipline — not the subservient or bureaucratic kind, but simply having the courage of conviction to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with your values and vision.
Disagreements are good. Moving ahead when some of them are irreconcilable is crucial.