Solo Strategy: Always Be the Sage on the Stage


“Good morning, everyone! Welcome to this year’s all-company meeting! What a great way to start the year, by bringing everyone together and charting our course for a successful year. We are going to meet our goals this year—and in the next couple of hours, I’ll be telling you what those goals are and what I expect you to do to achieve them.

“As you all know, I have always had an amazing vision for this company, a vision that only I could have since it’s the vision that I first had as a young boy, and it’s that vision that’s fueled my passion for achieving the success that you are all challenged to create for me now.

“My vision is going to change the world. My vision is going to change the way every single person on the planet does business. My vision will attract world-class talent, catapult our industry into the future, and shatter our competition, leaving us so far ahead of the pack it will take decades for other industry sectors to catch up. Who’s with me?”

“I want you to know that I have been working tirelessly over the last two weeks to dot every i and cross every t to make sure my strategic plan is bulletproof. I have developed innovations in product development, a roadmap for total digital transformation, and a workforce enablement plan that is truly groundbreaking. And I can tell that you all are as excited as I am!

“But there’s no time to lose. We’ve got to get started right away on executing my plan. You each have an extremely important role in my plan’s success. On your chairs today, you’ll find a very good business book called “Cog in the Machine.” It’s about how important each individual job is and how the goals of that job contribute to the larger strategy of the founder—me. I want you to read it this weekend, and on Monday be ready to get your assignment from your managers about the goals I’ve created for you.”

“Next year at this time, I will be revealing my vision, and we will unveil all you’ve done to make it a reality. Onward and upward! Go, team, go!”

Now here’s a great example of a visionary leader! He knows where he’s going, why he’s going there, and how he’s going to get there, which is what strategic leadership is all about. Keeping the staff in the dark on those three things will make it happen even faster—fewer questions, fewer detractors, and certainly no one thinking that they have a better idea than yours.

Remember, it was your idea in the first place, and without you, there would be no them. Employees come and go and will never be as invested in your business as you are, and they certainly will never have the kind of groundbreaking strategic innovations that you do. No one else is as qualified and experienced to set strategic direction for your company for one simple reason: it’s your company—you thought of it first!

The other reason to keep your strategic thoughts to yourself is that there’s little chance that most employees are even smart enough to know what you are talking about. This is why good leaders keep their P&Ls secret. Most people are too dumb to understand them, and nobody really needs to know how the business makes money anyway. The same holds true for strategic plans. Developing them on your own and keeping them a secret spares your employees the embarrassment of being incapable of contributing to them.

Solo strategizing is also important for remaining competitive. You certainly wouldn’t want one of your star managers to know where you envision the company being in five years, and then to share that information with your biggest competitor! So, remember, keep them guessing, tell them the minimum they need to know to get the job done, and you’ll be well on your way to success.


Strategy is not a solo sport. Period.

Sadly, the example above is far too common, with entrepreneurs and leaders who believe that they, and they alone, are the innovative brain and strategic brawn behind the business and that no other person is as qualified or capable of developing or contributing to a strategic plan. More often than not, they also believe that it was their genius that led the business to success or growth when the reality is that luck and timing probably played a much bigger part than one individual’s intellect or creativity.

This is not to say that entrepreneurs and leaders don’t have great ideas; they do, and they are also often more risk-tolerant than others. But good, solid strategic plans that can be put into action and lead to specific results take teamwork, collaboration, shared vision, and contribution from the best and brightest. An idea may germinate with you, but unless you allow for further development or evolution of that idea through inclusion and motivation of your management team and staff, you are setting a course for strategic disaster.

Many entrepreneurs and leaders fall into this trap not out of arrogance but out of fear and insecurity. Just because you are the founder, the CEO, or the leader doesn’t mean you have to have the big idea. It means you have to empower others to bring their ideas forward or to evolve ideas into better ones.

To get your copy of “How (NOT) to Create a Winning Strategy” click here.