4 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
What are the differences between being a good tactical leader and being a good strategic leader? As he nears retirement, Robert Lincoln muses about his successor at Lincoln Industries. The case describes the backgrounds of four potential successors, all of whom are tactically astute and very competent general managers. Lincoln realizes that the company is at a crossroads and wonders what it would take for his potential successors to graduate from being good tactical leaders to effective strategic leaders.
Robert Lincoln was the third generation of leadership at Lincoln Industries. Founded by his grandfather 50 years earlier, Lincoln Industries was regarded as an industry leader in automotive products and support services for 35 years. Robert's father had been a role model for Robert who had continued to inspire him. The recent discovery that he had cancer had thrown his plans into considerable turmoil. He learned that he had to undergo at least six months of chemotherapy and would be unable to lead Lincoln Industries. He had planned to retire in seven to ten years, but now the cancer had forced him to create a leadership replacement.
As Lincoln pondered his replacement, he realized that this was the wrong moment to be stepping out. The industry was in a state of flux and there were clear signs that there was a break with the past in the industry. Recent technological developments, global outsourcing of key components, increasing competition in the industry, and the arrival of innovative substitutes from other parts of the world required significant strategic leadership at Lincoln Industries, not only to survive, but to retain industry leadership in the new globally competitive environment. Lincoln was not at all sure if what had made Lincoln Industries successful in the past was sufficient or even appropriate for continued success in the future.
Lincoln Industries was a fairly flat organization with 10 vice president general managers and a small headquarters staff that reported to Lincoln (see Exhibit 1).
As Lincoln reflected on his 10 general managers (GMs), he tried to think about who could best step up and lead in his absence. He thought four GMs were better suited to step up and lead than the other six, even thought they were all quite good at functional leadership. But the four he focused on were, in Lincoln's mind, the best suited and for different reasons.
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Keywords: leadership, strategic leadership, succession planning, tactical leadership, strategy vs. tactics
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