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talking management

This Is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am in Vancouver with Mike Useem, a professor at the Wharton School.

Mike, you have been looking at strategy and leadership. How do those two ideas come together in your mind these days?

USEEM - I think the key thing is to put a plus sign between strategy and leadership. You have to have a strategy or else you don't know where you are going, and then of course you have to be able to make it happen, call that leadership.

The case that really convinced me of the power of that formulation is an event back in 1999 when the great Japanese car maker Nissan was pretty much going off a cliff. Renault agreed to come in and sort of save the day, but in doing that Renault put in a couple of billion dollars and required Nissan to bring in Carlos Ghosn who has been the Executive since 1999. he has run the company Nissan ever since along with Renault.

The point is, when he came in he had a strategy for change and so did his predecessor, but his predecessor had not been that effective at actually making things happen.

Carlos Ghosn came in with a strategy that had already been there, had a strategy himself of course, but then brought a set of leadership qualities that actually did make the difference, pulled Nissan back, and it is one of the great turn around recoveries of the modern era.

Then, Karl, that raises the question well what exactly is it that defines the intersection or the relationship, the additive relationship between strategy and leadership.

A good way to think about that is to refer to a concept that armed forces around the world, in Canada and the U.S., have long referred to as Commanders Intent.

We would tell to call that strategic intent. The basic idea is this - somebody of authority, a person in a leadership position, has got to be unequivocally clear about where they want to go, and that's the strategy piece.

Then the intent, the strategic intent, the intent part is this - you say what you want done, and then with effective staffing, great architecture, the right culture, let people around you actually make it happen. That's what was missing back in Nissan, that's what Carlos Ghosn brought to the table, and that is what made the difference.