I bet you have heard this question in one or another form. For most people you cannot be both. In their mind, is like oil and water. Better to keep it separate.
I personally think that you cannot do a good job at either one if you don’t understand the other side.
Here is why:
Strategy gives you purpose
Knowing what’s the overall strategy, the “why” are we doing things, makes us feel that we are contributing to that strategy. We understand better where the the tasks that we are performing fit into the larger picture.
Strategy let’s you make better decisions
Wait, what? Decisions? Yes. Everybody makes decisions, even the person frying the nuggets. Understanding the strategy gives the organization another level of resiliency, especially when the tasks cannot be specified in a lot of detail. When something happens that falls outside of what has been specified, It allows people to make decisions that will further the strategy.
Performing tactical tasks makes you a better strategist
I don’t know how many times have I heard strategies that are destined to failure, because the person tracing the strategy has never done the work and never been to the field, and doesn’t understand the nuances or just has the wrong idea on what’s possible. I have made this mistake myself.
Now, for example, it is impossible to do absolutely all jobs before stepping into a leadership role, so how do we deal with this? Simple. Just be humble and ask for input. This has the additional benefit of involving other people in crafting the strategy and getting their buy-in.
Strategy and tactics. They are two sides of a coin and have to work together to be really successful. So as many times, the answer to this question is “depends”.