I recently read this quote from James Freeman Clarke, the nineteenth century US writer: A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.

There are many current issues where I could apply that quote, but I want to use it to think about how you lead your organisation. The pressure for success is unrelenting. Most of the businesses I work with operate in dynamic, highly competitive markets with demanding customers, new entrants offering technological innovations and ever-increasing demands from all quarters for greater transparency. Moreover, public companies must also provide quarterly trading updates and half-and full-year results.

The risk is that as a leader of a business you simply end up focusing on your next announcement, get through that and then immediately turn to your next urgent issue or piece of communication. As a result, you cut costs – most likely training, recruitment, and marketing as they’re the easiest to manage at short notice – and clear out all the provisions in your balance sheet so that you can hit your next results deadline. In other words, you become a politician rather than a statesman or stateswoman.

The only way you can escape this Sisyphean nightmare is to have a clear and focused strategy, a coherent and co-ordinated set of objectives that deliver ongoing advantages and success. In turn, a strategy demands that you have an insight-driven view of your customers and your markets, how they are likely to evolve and how you can best meet any emerging needs and opportunities.

So, if you feel that your organisation is constantly shifting from one crisis deadline to another the reason is simple: it doesn’t have a strategy, or, at least, it doesn’t have a good strategy – one that is insightful, coherent and co-ordinated.

Clarke’s quote ends like this: The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift. How are you creating, pursuing and delivering a focused growth strategy so that you can steer your business and not allow it to drift?

Off The Record: Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?) by Diana Ross

Do you know where you’re going to?

Do you like the things that life is showing you?

Where are you going to?

Do you know?

Written by Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser