Strategic leadership – Definition, Skills and Examples

Published by: Shivendra Tiwari

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Definition – Strategic leadership is the capacity of the manager to plan ahead, envision, and guide. They have to deliver their strategies effectively and accurately. It must be backed by judicial use of resources.

Strategic management and strategic plans must work in tandem to be successful. Strategic leaders must ensure this. The members of the firm will look up to the strategic leaders. They will believe in their strategy making for the future. Therefore, a strategic leader must ensure that these strategies are implemented well.

The strategic thinking of the managers determines their operational leadership. A management and productivity mentality are both crucial. There should also be the ability to connect current happenings with the future. It can be referred to as strategic agility, resulting from strategic leadership.

Key skills a strategic leader

Key skills a strategic leader

1. Impeccable at Communication

Strategic leaders should be able to communicate the targets of the organization. It requires soft skills so the employees know where they are headed. Communication also entails ensuring that employees are well versed with the company culture.

2. Out of the box thinking

Strategic leadership requires a mix of strategic management and a clear strategic vision. There is complete concentration on what needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goals.

3. Long term planner

It can help to borrow ideas from pre-planned initiatives. These can help curb time, money, and resources, etc. BLUE

4. Strategic flexibility

A strategic leader should be able to reduce the larger long-term goals into smaller daily goals. Then, there should be a birds-eye view of the goals to translate these into actions in the present time.

5. Dependable

A strategic leader can be depended upon. They chase targets with interest and enthusiasm. They keep going till the objectives are fulfilled and have a strategic mindset.

6. Good Manager

Strategic leadership must take into account how the team members should be guided. They are capable of assigning tasks and resources. They also know how to help out juniors and make them choose better.

7. Hands-on

A strategic leader is good at executing strategy. They know how to get the right outcomes by acting according to the objectives set. They utilize resources to get the maximum output.

Notable Strategic Leaders across the globe

  1. Susan Wojcicki (YouTube)
  2. Elon Musk (Tesla)
  3. Tim Cook (Apple)
  4. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)
  5. Mary Barra (General Motors)

Example of a brand that showed Strategic Leadership

Apple

The American multinational giant and the world’s largest information technology company by revenue has outpaced most of its competitors in the last 2 decades. Much of Apple’s success can be credited to the likes of Steve Jobs and then later Tim Cook and their significant impact on the company’s journey and fortune.

Apple’s stellar product line-up includes the likes of iPhone, iPad, Mac PCs, Apple Watch, Apple Airpods, and the ever-growing software and services segment. In fact, Apple’s dominance in the smartphone segment can be evidenced by the fact that in 2021; revenue only from the sale of iPhones stood at an outstanding USD 191.9 billion.

How to become a strategic leader? Exact Process of Strategic Leadership

1. Go against the norm

Strategic leadership characteristics should involve going against the norm and breaking traditional practices wherever necessary. The team must be encouraged to do well. They can Troubleshoot and forge better processes.

2. Focus on both long-term and short-term goals.

Strategic leaders should be able to focus on both long-term and short-term plans. Employees should keep a tab of problems arising on a short-term basis and communicate them. Team meetings are another way of knowing what the team has been up to on a day-to-day basis.

3. Efficient Communication

Strategizing is ideal if everybody is on the same page. Strategic leaders must ensure everyone is up to date and have complete clarity. Communication can significantly help in forging great teams which can complete current tasks and ones that come up later.

4. Utilize a risk management strategy

Coming up with any strategy bears a risk. That is why there should be a process of risk mitigation. It can help shield against failures. An example is keeping a fixed budget.

5. Form a planning team

The front employees, middle supervisors or operational managers, and senior managers have a bird’ eye view of the organization’s process. As a result, they can be used to form a planning committee.

In addition, it helps in getting clarity over upcoming business challenges, stakeholders, and the organizational culture.

Principles of Strategic Leadership

Principles of Strategic Leadership

1. Have frank and clear information flow

The sort of structure large companies use is inspired by the army. The aim here is to restrict free information flow.

Only those people who need the information the most are privy to it. Otherwise, the decision-making is done minus the insights. According to the strategic plan, they are unaware of the assets, so they have to wing it. However, this can be difficult if there is no room for queries and the information available about the larger picture is limited. The lack of information causes a lack of innovation, and the strategic leader finds it difficult to speak up to authority.

So an effective strategic leader is well aware of the benefits of disbursing information. They know the information can create new avenues for expansion.

2. Decentralize responsibility

Strategic leaders acquire their abilities by repetition. This sort of work requires freedom. Therefore, there should be a decentralization of power, with lower-level managers with decision-making powers as well.

It allows them to assess the impact of delegating authority to others. It improves the overall expertise, flexibility, and strength of the company. It helps as the expertise of those from outside the usual power spheres is being sought.

3. Do not penalize failure

An organization’s value system and culture can motivate the employees to take risks even if it means failure. They can make mistakes early on and learn. The idea that losses should be accepted and admitted to is a culture that must be imbibed in the organization from the beginning. The promotion and review processes must teach these ideas.

The downside is when there is an actual failure, and that leads to damage. Organizational leadership requires drawing lessons from success and failure alike. They must know the path from some failures to successes. Strategic leadership should know how to decrease the anxiety around loss. They must also know how to bounce back and resume their growth.

4. Build various processes to create and test ideas

The formation and communication of ideas are central to strategic leadership styles. They must also ensure these ideas end up providing the firm with value. The strategic leader can find ways in which the employees can be inspired to be more innovative. As a result, their innovative capabilities can be honed.

Usually, business organizations see their leaders making creative decisions. The manager might not be appreciative of the new ideas. They might discourage creativity. It can then further ensure that the employee’s innovative capabilities lie dormant. This idea deviated from that.

It is best to promote innovation in various ways. First, there can be cross-departmental platforms where colleagues can discuss ideas with each other. The pictures can be honed through further discussions.

Strategic leaders can form apprenticeship programs. Innovative employees can be identified first, and then their skills can be coached by a strategic leader. There is another possible productive method called reverse mentoring. It is when a new employee shares their understanding of current tech innovations to the senior leaders.

5. Create chances for education through experience

Usually, budding leaders learn from information sharing rather than through their experiences. It is because it is cost-intensive to carry out coaching in classes and overall easier.

However, this has more immediate benefits while compromising on long-term value. The process does imbibe the strategic leaders with efficient managerial abilities, but this has to be paired with experience to get them to achieve their full potential.

6. Create communication lines with strategists

A strategic leader in the making should have the chance to forge ties with co-workers in the firm and gain experience. This way, they are aware of each other’s presence and will not have to work disconnected from the rest.

In addition, if they know that some of their colleagues share the same mentality, they will feel freer to go about their work. As a result, they can add more value to their work.

7. Invest entirely in the work

Strategic leadership must know that they can use their past experiences to tackle current problems. In addition, they can utilize their passions, experiences, interests, skills, creativity, etc., to come up with solutions. The strategic leadership will also ask the same from their subordinates. They help in lowering the pressure in the workplace as everyone gets to be themselves. There is acceptance from people about themselves.

They might not be enthusiastic about working in firms with no room for their skills and viewpoints.

8. Employ recruits for transformation

Onboarding should take place only after due diligence. The focus should be on skills, experience, and diversity to avoid the workforce becoming homogenous. Their track record in the previous organization and ability to react to the current one should be known. Interviews can help in understanding how they think, approach problems, empathize, ability to deal with data and overall vision.

The newcomers must know that they can experiment, ask for more tasks, and go out of their way to help the organization more than their previous one. They should know that there is room for growth and diversity of thought.

9. Understand that creating leaders is an ongoing process

Strategic leaders should be humble and intelligent enough to know that growth and education are always ongoing processes. They must be willing to accept that they are capable of mistakes and not all-knowing.

This quality means that they can sit back and let others take charge. So strategic leaders encourage people to put forth their thoughts and ask for advice.

10. Introspect periodically

Reflection allows one to find out the value their ambition will provide while also letting one take lessons from their failures. It makes it easier to identify innovative ideas without having to alter routines or current occurrences.

Sometimes, managers can’t look beyond the present. As a result, they can get burdened by a difficult project. However, taking out the time for introspection can allow strategic leaders to see what they have achieved.

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Shivendra Tiwari

Shivendra Tiwari is an Engineer by education, writer by Profession, and Online Marketing Enthusiast by Passion. He loves researching and writing meaningful articles on subjects of Marketing, Digital Marketing and Management