Strategic Risk: How Great Leaders Avoid The Trap

by Oct 9, 2020Leadership

My recent conversation with James Lam on How Great Leaders Avoid the Trap of Strategic Risk, revealed a fascinating influence on his thinking. James talked about his childhood hero, Bruce Lee, and what he learned from watching and listening to Lee’s philosophy. 

What did he learn?

Rather than focus on the distinctions among various forms of martial arts, Lee talked about integration and choosing actions that are right for the specific circumstance. In our conversation, James and I talk about leadership and the importance of using an integrated mindset, approach and processes to reduce strategic risk – the source of a high percentage of risk and losses, but too often ignored. 

Leaders who meddle in tactics may be avoiding the hard work of strategy.

A symptom of lack of strategic thinking is meddling in tactics. Even boards are not immune to this, at times breaching the boundary between oversight and management, often rationalizing the need to do so. I discuss what leaders can do when the board meddles in this piece for Harvard Business Review. You’ll probably recognize that it isn’t only board members who sometimes breach organizational boundaries, it happens at every level. 

Leaders who stay in touch with what is really going on inside their organization without resorting to inappropriate means, do so by employing an integrated and strategic mindset – more a kaleidoscope than a microscope. This requires leaders to engage in meta-cognition – thinking about their own thinking, not unlike Bruce Lee consciously thinking about how to respond in specific circumstances.  

In the video, James and I talk about his five keys for leaders to maintain appropriate oversight without meddling and while attending to risks of all types. James Lam’s thinking, research and advice in this area is well worth reading and adopting. His books can be found on Amazon