Why Leaders Don't Plan

The truth is a lot of leaders just don’t like strategic planning, but they never want to admit it. They prefer to make decisions:

  • By themselves, without consulting anyone
  • On a day-to-day basis as situations develop
  • Based on their own interpretation of the facts

Some very smart intuitive leaders can sometimes Choosing the better drug… make good decisions in this way–particularly if the company is small and the industry is not overly complicated. I worked with a family owned manufacturing business where the original founder and owner made all the decisions for decades. The company grew and thrived because the industry did not change much and the customer base was loyal. This leader did not see any benefit in planning or need to consult with any of his managers. He thought he saw his business clearly, and he did, for the most part. But he retired, the company changed, and so did the industry. The new CEO knew he could not lead and manage that way. Many times, however, the reasons for ignoring strategic planning have deeper, negative root causes.

For one thing, strategic planning forces leaders to look at the facts–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be painful, like going to the doctor for your annual physical and finding out you require surgery or taking your car to a mechanic for routine repairs and discovering you need a new transmission. What is the alternative? As someone said

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“hope is not a strategy” so it is better to deal with bad news and realize the opportunity to get better. The first job of a leader is to define the truth and it takes courage more than intelligence to do that job. It is counter-intuitive to many leaders, but acting courageously in the face of bad news actually inspires followers. So take a hard look at yourself and your organization in the mirror and then do something about it.

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