One of my biggest challenges as a CEO is getting involved in too many day-to-day details--and I know I'm not alone.
The most successful CEOs have to learn the art of balancing two very opposite demands: keeping their finger on the pulse of what's happening within their company, specifically, and what's happening with their company at the 30,000 foot level. I have seen executives that love to stay at the 30,000 foot level, and end up losing sight of the most fundamental aspects of their business, and I've seen too many CEOs get so lost in the weeds that they get blind-sided by what's happening with their organization at large.
But in order to create a sustainable and growing business, especially one that keeps cranking out amazing products or delivering fantastic services every year, you have to become skilled at making both strategic and tactical decisions.
So, what's the difference?
Tactical leadership is doing things right.
Strategic leadership is doing the right things.
In order to get your company off the ground, you will most likely be spending your time in a tactical state of mind. As a founder, your entire focus should be on how the work gets done--and how to improve that work to a point where people will be willing to pay for it.
However, this tunnel-vision approach can't continue forever. In fact, sooner than later, you'll encounter your first real challenge as a founder where you'll suddenly have to look at the landscape from a strategic point of view. You'll need to question whether you're headed in the right direction, or if you should start implementing processes to steer the ship in a slightly different direction.
This is why it's so important for CEOs to stay connected to the heart of their businesses. Long-term success (for an executive and for a company) is dependent upon a healthy balance between not getting caught in the weeds, and not spending too much time on all the "big, important CEO stuff." You can't have one without the other.
The greatest CEOs are deemed visionaries because they're not one-trick ponies. Building a business that's profitable for a year or two is a great accomplishment, but it's not something legendary. Bold innovators are always plotting their company's next big move, and as a result, remain relevant over the long term.
Which is why the single most valuable quality of any CEO is not just knowing what needs to be done, but being able to bring that vision to life.
It's important not to forget that as fun as it might be to brainstorm creative new paths your business can take, you still have to keep operating your current business--which is where your tactical leadership comes into play. Your goal should be to remain so far ahead of your competitors that your competition can't even think about the future. Why? They're too busy trying to keep up with all the things you're doing right now.
This careful balance is something I talk a lot about in my book, All In. Strategy and tactics are the yin and yang of corporate leadership. Having the ability to do both extremely well is mental multitasking of the highest degree.
It's all about having one foot in the now, and one foot in the future.