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By Sarah C. Threnhauser

Last week, we discussed the turbulence that has taken over the market – and the frame that is shaping the “new normal” in health care (see Get Ready For The New Normal all members). For executives in service provider organizations, finding the competitive advantage in this turbulent market is the strategic question that your organization needs to find a way to answer. This environment requires anticipatory leadership – something I like to look at as “riding the bicycle while building it.”

Last week, at our Executive Leadership Institute, we touched on the issues of strategic positioning and anticipatory leadership during one of our case study sessions. We explored the critical role that General John Buford played on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. General Buford’s ability to think strategically and make quick decisions under pressure allowed Union troops the time to gain a foothold at important positions in Gettysburg, and set the stage for the Union’s eventual victory over the confederate army during the battle.

There are two positioning models to consider when looking at both General Buford and your own actionable situations:

  1. Proactive positioning – This requires you to think ahead and strategically position your organization for that future market. Many executives recognize that there are changes happening in the market, but they choose not to react proactively – either because of sunk cost thinking (Stuck In Sunk Cost Thinking all members), denial that the market changes will affect their organization personally, or a failure to accurately assess the outside threats that will affect their organization. Yes, you can react once change has arrived; but often, if you are reacting, it’s already too late.

  2. Mental positioning – This means that you need to be able to apply your own market intelligence and experience to seemingly reactive tasks. Every day, you make decisions that will, in some way, affect the long-term future of your organization – be sure that you are applying your wide breadth of knowledge to all of these decisions. Your every day decisions need to support your long-term strategic position.

Great leadership, through anticipation, can offset being overmatched in many other areas of business. Riding a bicycle when it isn’t completed is quite a feat to master; but by anticipating what is going to happen next, your organization can make sure that you are following the right path.

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