How strategic leaders become impact leaders (here are 22 ways)

You’re already an accomplished executive. What’s next for you?

In the first article in this mini-series, we looked at the three leadership games and saw how each game is an order-of-magnitude more impactful than the previous:

3 Leadership Games Impact CEO

And in the previous article, we acknowledged that people find it hard to shift leadership games, because it requires a very different way of thinking and operating. And we looked very specifically about how to make the shift from Operational to Strategic leadership.

But how can we make the shift from Strategic leadership to Impact?

I work on this all the time with my 1:1 clients. Many of them are incredible operational and strategic leaders. They’re already successful; but they realise this isn’t enough and what they long for is to create meaningful impact at scale.

So, if you’re a strong strategic leader and you want to become an impact leader, here’s what I advise:

  1. Dig into your past. Revisit the stories that move you, the moments that made you. Look for the clues they’re giving you about the mission that will set you on fire.
  2. Remember, you can’t move others until you’re moved yourself. You can’t inspire others until you’ve inspired yourself. Focus on getting yourself inspired first!
  3. Start to hang out with other mission-driven leaders. Attend conferences. Let their mindset and culture infuse you.
  4. Become unshakeable. Get clear about the core values and convictions that guide your leadership, and how they align with your purpose.
  5. A goal is a place to come from, not a place to get to. Think about who you need to become in order to achieve the impact you desire … and start being that person today.
  6. Don’t leave your current business behind. What broader systems does your business play in? How can you leverage the resources, networks, and capabilities of your business to achieve ambitious impact goals?
  7. Ask yourself: what professional legacy would put a huge grin on your face in the future when your great-grandchildren are on your knee, and you’re telling them the story of your life.
  8. Ask “what if this next chapter was fun and easy?” Often, we don’t set out on the journey of impact because workaholism is all we know, and we don’t want the toll on our health and relationships any more.
  9. Stop optimising for what’s achievable. Author and philosopher Robert Brault said, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
  10. Let go of the need to be a high achiever. Put your focus on people who you would love to serve instead.
  11. Starting saying “no” a lot more. To make a huge impact at a system level, you’ll need to say no to any opportunity that’s not a 9/10.
  12. Put a few extra zeros on whatever goal comes to mind. See what that does to your sense of vision.
  13. Almost everything will be a partnership. The change you want to make will be far too big to do alone. This holds true even if you are the CEO of a huge company! Think about partnerships that will create leverage.
  14. Master multiplication. Don’t focus on accumulating followers; instead, focus on multiplying leaders who can carry the torch. (Use one of Xquadrant’s four multiplication strategies to do that!)
  15. Don’t forget tiny steps. Avoid procrastination by focusing on one tiny action. What’s one email you could send, one conversation you could have, to roll the ball forward just a little more?
  16. Make bold commitments to yourself, even knowing you may well fail. This is the paradox - declaring a bold vision and going ‘all in’, whilst also being okay if it doesn’t work on. You’re “playing to play” because the game itself is worth it.
  17. Give your all, but don’t give it all. Giving your all means playing full out. But giving it all means breaking boundaries and sacrificing health and your core relationships - and that’s a recipe for disaster. You’re running a marathon here, not a sprint. First things first.
  18. Don’t let the mission become a millstone. This is a related idea. The mission may be important, but don’t get a Messiah complex and turn the mission into a great weight around your neck. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ll be more effective that way.
  19. Get a coach. OK, this one may sound self-serving, but the definition of impact leadership is that you’ll be breaking fresh ground on a mission that matters. You’ll want someone who can help you get outside your own thinking.
  20. Get real about money. The biggest barrier to pursuing impact is the idea that you need to horde a whole stack of cash first. The result is that many amazing leaders stay stuck inside their gilded cage of stock options. The truth is that you’ve probably got enough money, and will be able to generate more money as you pursue impact. You don’t have to wait until retirement to make a difference.
  21. Remember, vulnerability is a superpower. People need to know that you’re truly on a mission that matters to you. So what are the key fears or limiting beliefs that might prevent you from embracing vulnerability as a leader, and how can you overcome them?
  22. Become a systems thinker. What are the key externalities that your business generates within the ecosystem, both positive and negative? What are the most critical systemic challenges facing your ecosystem, and how can you prioritise them in setting goals for impact? What are the most common sources of resistance to change in your ecosystem, and how can you anticipate and address them? What are the most significant external factors that influence your ecosystem, and how can you account for them in your impact-focused leadership?

As I said in the previous article on moving to strategic leadership, you don’t have to make this shift. But if you’re ready to 10X your impact, making the shift to the game of impact leadership will enable you to create an extraordinary legacy.


PLUS, whenever you're ready, why not hit the accelerator on your journey of exponential impact by working with us, or by picking up a copy of Making TIME For Strategy?

10X your financials, 10X your positive impact, 10X your inner peace.

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