Over the past 50 years, strategy has been examined, factored and reduced to a few simple formulas. In that time, strategy has moved from the realm of senior leaders to the hoards MBAs and consultants. That’s the thrust of the argument Cynthia Montgomery makes in The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs. Montgomery writes, “With all good intentions, we had backed strategy into a narrow corner and reduced it to a left-brain exercise. In doing so, we lost much of its vitality and much of its connection to the day-to-day life of the company, and we lost sight of what it takes to lead the effort.”
Montgomery argues that strategy ought to be an act of leadership, and not the formulaic calculation it currently appears to be. She argues that sustainable strategy is a myth and that true strategists and leaders work on constantly shaping and cultivating their companies value proposition and purpose over a longer time frame. To add to her argument she brings in fascinating case studies such as Domenico De Sole’s incredible turnaround of Gucci and (yes it seems obligatory) Steve Jobs’ triumphant return, which left Apple better aligned with the direction of the consumer market.
Montgomery’s style is a beautiful blend of academic prose and practical lessons. At first glance, the book looks like dry, heavy stuff however it moves quickly and keeps you feeling positive and entertained. There are many books about strategy out there, and many more about leadership – however, The Strategist has done the body of literature a service by finally blending the two in a comprehensive, yet understandable manner.