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Work on your three levels of leadership

Another leadership development bit?  Yup. But if you have no time or are impatient, here are the three levels:  visionary, strategic and tactical.  Skip or stay, but think about your balance in leadership either way.

As a leader, you have to worry over issues from mundane to strategic, constantly reordering your priorities to accommodate competing needs.  Sometimes, the

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Visionary leadership…

noisiest or most recent issue takes center stage – just because it is easiest to respond to at the moment.

But we all should be aware of the three levels of leadership that each of us experience as we create, grow and nurture our various enterprises, no matter what their size.

By far the most enjoyable for most of us is visionary leadership – the time we spend thinking ahead, creating new ideas for products or services, focusing on the big picture and how we can change the world with our creation.  It must be the lifeblood of a company that is going to make a difference in an industry or the world.  And each of us tasked with a senior role in an enterprise should dedicate some amount of time to just this.  Visionary leadership is not performed in a vacuum.  Many times it is a customer, an employee, or an industry conference that sparks the idea that drives you to create and express your vision of the future for your company or product line.

 [Email readers, continue here…]     Then comes the strategic thinking and planning that leads to what must be done to achieve the vision.  Think of creation of your strategic plan as drawing the roadmap to get to the goal.  Strategic thinking is a necessary part of a leader’s mental toolkit and often requires input from those who will execute the plan.  A leader who does not periodically engage others in strategic thinking is missing the critical step in focusing the organization toward achievement of goals and the vision.

The third level, tactical leadership, is the one that requires trust in your direct reports, along with the ability to delegate and empower others to execute the plan.  You should be involved in development and review of the tactics to achieve those strategies you’ve mutually created. The best leaders find metrics to measure progress in achievement of these tactics, then don’t interfere with the execution of these tactics unless negative metrics signal a reason to do so.   Delegation is an art, requiring a form of strength that must be learned – especially by eager entrepreneurs used to tight personal control of processes.  But no enterprise can grow or succeed without the delegation of tasks and without the thoughtful use of metrics to measure progress and success.

Three levels of leadership to learn, practice, and teach: visionary, strategic and tactical.

  • I think you are referring to matured companies that can afford to have the 3 roles that David speaks of performed by distinct individuals.

    In many startups and newer companies – or small businesses – those 3 roles often fall under the single owner/operator or entrepreneur.

    I’ve even had experience in a startup with around 50 people where those roles were (supposedly) filled by individuals, but were overlooked by everyone in said roles, so it all fell upwards to the Founder/CEO.

  • Dan Hoefflin

    Hi Dave – interesting article. It also reminded me that oftentimes, these three levels are handled by different people. The Visionary is seldom one who handles the detailed tactics well. I speak from personal experience as you well know. Keep up your good work!

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