Melanie Eusebe is an expert in company strategy who has applied strategic thinking to her career too. Melanie has been a Management Consultant at both IBM and Ernst & Young with over 15 years digital and financial services experience, specialising in transformation strategies for global organisations.
She has started several community initiatives and social enterprises, including the Trade School Westminster, the Black Screen Guild Awards and Phresh Ideas, a small business start-up consultancy. Here she talks about her concept of strategic leadership and how it can be applied to companies and careers.
What does strategic leadership mean to you?
It is about taking a bird's eye view of where you are going. Once you have the vision you can set yourself goals and work out a strategy to reach them.
At what stage in your career did you become more strategic and how did that come about?
It was when I was working as the manager of electronic channels responsible for internet banking at TD Bank in Canada. I was forced to become strategic because the Internet was young and everything was new, so moving forward required blue sky steps. It was like walking on a bridge over a canyon but building the bridge as I went along.
What is the most important ingredient in strategic leadership?
The most vital ingredients are communication and application. Everyone in your team needs to know what the strategy is and that they each have a stake in making it come to life. You need a strategy for your own career too. If your current job is not going to take you where you want to be, formulate a strategy to get you there.
Did anyone help you become more strategic in your thinking?
The vice-present of electronic channels at TD Bank helped me enormously by asking me where I wanted to take my career. At first I was non-plussed, but he encouraged me to look at where I wanted to be in five, ten or 15 years. He invested his time in me and gave me confidence.
Can you tell us about him and how he did that for you?
He taught me the three keys to strategic leadership: vision, goals and strategy. Looking at these three areas in succession will get you where you want to go but breaking the effort of reaching your goals down into manageable chunks.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start operating more strategically?
Dedicate time to thinking about the vision of your life, where you want to be in five or ten years. Think about the goals you must make to get there, and break it down into smaller steps. And then think about what you have to do, the ‘how’ so that you can make the strategies to get there. You can use this method to achieve any ambition, not just career goals.
What happens when we don’t view our business activities strategically?
You can end up thinking on the small scale, of the immediate future only. For instance, it's easy to get caught up in the detail in departments such as operations or IT, but it's a mistake if you want to be the chief executive, because Operations and IT officers can remain internally focussed within the company. They may not think strategically about the whole market, and where the company is positioned. If you don't think strategically about your position as regards of the rest of the market you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
What is the best way for leaders to improve their strategic leadership?
They should think of their position within their business sector as a whole rather than just within their current organisation. Look at where your industry is going and where you are going within it.