Definition

strategic leadership

Contributor(s): Francesca Sales

Strategic leadership is a practice in which executives, using different styles of management, develop a vision for their organization that enables it to adapt to or remain competitive in a changing economic and technological climate. Strategic leaders are able to use this vision to motivate employees and departments, fostering among them a sense of unity and direction, in order to implement change within their organization or streamline its processes.

Leaders must first understand their organization's mission in order to be strategic. This means fully grasping why the company exists, who its customers are and how exactly it can provide value for them. Then, strategic leaders will need to create a vision of what that mission will look like at a specified time in the future. Finally, leaders must craft a strategy to put that vision into action. The strategy maps out the steps a company needs to take or changes it needs to make in order to get from its current state to its desired state.

According to Harvard Business Review, strategic leadership competencies include six essential skills:

  • Anticipate: Collect information from a wide range of sources both inside and outside your company's industry or function, to predict competitors' moves and reactions to new initiatives or products.
  • Challenge: View and reframe a problem from multiple angles to understand underlying causes.
  • Interpret: Exhibit curiosity and openness when testing several working hypotheses, involving others, before coming to any conclusion.
  • Decide: Weigh long-term investments for growth with short-term pressure for results, as well as the risks and trade-offs for customers and other stakeholders, when making decisions.
  • Align: Examine stakeholders' incentives and tolerance for change and identify conflicting interests.
  • Learn: Convey stories of success and failure to advocate learning; course-correct decisions after they have been made if there is refuting evidence.
This was last updated in September 2015

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What examples of strategic leadership have you encountered in your company?
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In order to remain competitive, one strategy that has been used is to buy out other companies with desirable products that would add to our portfolio. We really don't have a united vision or direction, though. 
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