The Pleasures & Pain of Intuitive Leadership

Examining the lived experience of strategy work

CMO approach - mission/vision -> positioning -> brand campaign But your avg tenure is 18 months! You run out of time

An ethnography of senior executives might uncover a specific gap between the language of planning and strategy, and the day to day reality of operating.

The perception / idea of leadership looks like

There’s this kind of waterfall idea of leadership:

  1. Set a mission & vision
  2. Create a 5 year strategy
  3. Set goals
  4. Hire teams
  5. Operate

But there’s a few things wrong with this. Firstly running through this whole process takes a long time (and the average CMO tenure is only 18 months! how much of this can you execute in 18 months?!). But also you need to be showing results immediately.

So you start leading with intuition. Intuition is a kind of “middle out” approach.

Waterfall vs agile leadership? Agile has it’s own proble

Imagine you just joined a new company as CMO. There’s this kin

An ethnography of senior leaders might uncover a specific gap between “accepted wisdom” and “how things really work”.

That is, that

You look around and:

  • the mission & vision is only half-formed (it was the output of the strategic leadership offsite but still isn’t locked yet)
  • your data is not complete, you can only see some of what you want and don’t fully trust the other half. Rebuilding your data pipeline and measurement is in the plan for the later part of the year
  • You have a product roadmap and set of priorities but what’s on paper only partially matches the actual resources available (one product team is down two people and they’ve been trying to hire into those roles for months and another has a weak PM that isn’t pulling their weight)

Intuitive strategy and intuitive leadershp iis how you survive. It’s how you keep moving forward, operating in uncertainty and dealing with resource constraints.

But intuitive leadership is exhausting. And it’s also not super effective.

It’s a kind of half-formed starting point that is a combination of

Experiences Skills Intuition

But the problem is

Previous experiene is only partially transferable Your existing skillset is only partly valuable Your intuition is only directionally correct

So you need to strengthen your point of view and your “strategic leadership”. How do you turn your intuition into something more concrete, credible and clear?

Some ideas:

1. Don’t focus on mission/vision/strategy - focus on the diagnosis.

Good strategy starts with diagnosis and guiding principle.

2. Shift from targets to input/output metrics

You’ll be handed goals. But goals are kind of meaningless

3. Focus on projects that prove something

4. Spin up research, quickly

The raw ingredients of a good strategy, of insights, of making decisions. Before you have data / evidence etc you want little vignettes and stories of real customers.