The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs
Based on an acclaimed professor's legendary strategy course at Harvard Business School, The Strategist offers a radically new perspective on a leader's most vital role.
"Are you a strategist?" That's the first question Cynthia Montgomery asks the business owners and senior executives from all over the world who participate in her highly regarded executive education course. It's not a question they anticipate or care much about on opening day. But by the time the program ends, they cannot imagine leading their companies to success without being—and living the role of—a strategist.
Over a series of weeks and months, Montgomery puts these accomplished executives through their paces. Using case discussions, after-hours talks, and participants' own strategy dilemmas, she illuminates what strategy is, why it's important, and what it takes to lead the effort. En route, she equips them to confront the most essential question facing every business leader: Does this company truly matter? In doing so, she shows that strategy is not just a tool for outwitting the competition; it is the most powerful means a leader has for shaping a company itself.
The Strategist exposes all business leaders—whether they run a global enterprise or a small business—to the invaluable insights Montgomery shares with these privileged executives. By distilling the experiences and insights gleaned in the classroom, Montgomery helps leaders develop the skills and sensibilities they need to become strategists themselves. It is a difficult role, but little else one does as a leader is likely to matter more.
strategy in the last thirty years, virtually nothing has been written about the strategist and what this vital role requires of the person who shoulders it. It wasn’t until years into this shift that I fully realized what had happened. It was classic Shakespeare: As a field, we had hoisted ourselves on our own petard. We had demoted strategy from the top of the organization to a specialist function. Chasing a new ideal, we had lost sight of the value of what we had—the richness of judgment, the
the start of this book: If your company disappeared today, would the world be different tomorrow? Despite our long discussions about purpose, and their general buy-in to the idea, this question always catches EOP executives by surprise. Frankly, it’s not a question most have been asked or asked themselves. It’s a real soul-searcher. But it’s one I hope you recognize that you need to answer. Here’s what it means to be different in a way that matters in your industry. It means that, if you
mainstay, but as its draw. The idea was that frequent fashion changes in clothing would help the world forget all those counterfeit bags and Gucci toilet paper. “Gucci had to get the message out,” De Sole explained, “the real message that Gucci had changed, that it was more exciting, more fashion-forward. We couldn’t have gotten that level of excitement around leather bags.”28 Brand. One aim of the increased focus on fashion was to propel the company overnight into a new brand identity,
make something work as elegantly on a PC as it did on the iMac.) And in a rare economic turnaround, consumers began to pay for something that had recently been free. The products and services Apple rolled out capitalized on the company’s exquisite sense of design and technological wizardry and brought the whole digital revolution into sharp relief. Jobs told Time in early 2002, “I would rather compete with Sony than compete in another product category with Microsoft.”46 There’s another boat
out. “Can’t you see that the cup is overflowing?” “Yes,” the Zen master replies. “But a cup that is already full cannot take in anything else.” If one’s mind is already filled to the brim, there is no place for new ideas. To be a strategist, one must be willing to explore new ways of leading. BE A FIRE STARTER Being a strategist takes drive and initiative, and the willingness and curiosity to ask questions and venture forward. As bedrock important as strategy is to the long-term success of a