What is strategic leadership and how does it help us build a successful business? Many articles, books and journals have been written about strategic leadership. They include rules, pointers, styles, and biographies of inspiring leaders or business leaders that made world history. But there are certain strategic leadership ideas that we fail to recognize in the course of studying books. Below are five things you thought you knew about strategic leadership.
“In growing a business, leadership skills are a necessity, not an option.” – Rich Dad
5 Things You Must Know About Strategic Leadership
Strategic leadership is applied with different styles
There are different types of leaders and leadership styles; and you will probably encounter more than one type in your lifetime. Formal leaders are those we elect into positions or offices such as the senators, congressmen and presidents of local clubs. Informal leaders or those we look up to by virtue of their wisdom and experience such as in the case of the elders of a tribe or our grandparents.
Other informal leaders are looked up to by virtue of their expertise and contribution on a given field such as Albert Einstein in the field of Theoretical Physics and Leonardo da Vinci in the field of the Arts. Both formal and informal leaders practice a combination of strategic leadership styles.
Lewin’s three basic leadership styles – authoritative, participative, and delegative
Likert’s four leadership styles – exploitive authoritative, benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative
Goleman’s six emotional leadership styles – visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding
Strategic leadership is a process of becoming
Although certain entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Andrew Carnegie, Sam Walton, Richard Branson and Aliko Dangote; the richest black man in the world seem to be born with leadership qualities, without the right environment and exposure; they may fail to develop their full potential. So like learning how to ride a bicycle, you can also learn how to become a leader and hone your leadership abilities. Knowledge on strategic leadership theories and skills may be formally gained by enrolling in leadership seminars, workshops, and conferences.
Daily interactions with people provide the opportunity to observe and practice leadership theories. Together, formal and informal learning will help you gain leadership attitudes, gain leadership insights, and thus furthering the cycle of learning. You do not become a leader in one day and just stop. Life long learning is important in becoming a good business leader, for each day brings new experiences that put your knowledge, skills, and attitude to a test.
Strategic leadership starts with you
The best way to develop strategic leadership qualities is to apply it to your own life. As an adage goes “action speaks louder than words.” Leaders are always in the limelight. Keep in mind that your credibility as a business leader depends much on your actions, your interaction with your family, friends, and co-workers, your way of managing your personal and organizational responsibilities, and even the way you talk with the newspaper vendor across the street. Repeated actions become habits and habits in turn form a person’s character. Steven Covey’s book entitled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” provides good insights on how you can achieve personal leadership.
Strategic leadership is a shared responsibility
Leadership is not the sole responsibility of one person, but rather a shared responsibility among members of a team. A leader belongs to a group. Each member has responsibilities to fulfill. Formal leadership positions are merely added responsibilities aside from their responsibilities as members of the team. Effective strategic leadership requires members to do their share of work. Starting as a mere group of individuals, members and leaders work towards the formation of an effective team.
In this light, social interaction plays a major role in strategic leadership. To learn how to work together requires a great deal of trust between and among leaders and members of a team. Trust is built upon actions and not merely on words. When mutual respect exists, trust is fostered and confidence is built.
Strategic leadership styles depend on the situation.
Have you imagined how dictatorship works for Singapore but not in the United States of America? Aside from culture, beliefs, value system, and form of government, the current situation of a nation also affects the leadership styles used by its formal leaders. There is no rule that only one style can be used.
“I believe in benevolent dictatorship provided I am the dictator.” – Richard Branson
Most of the time, leaders employ a combined strategic leadership styles depending on the situation at hand. In emergency situations such as periods of war and calamity, decision making is a matter of life and death. Thus, a nation’s leader cannot afford to consult with all departments to arrive at crucial decision. The case is of course different in times of peace and order where different sectors and other branches of government can freely interact and participate in governance. Note that these illustrations can also be applied to business.
Another case to observe is in leading organizations. When the staffs are highly motivated and competent, a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles of leadership is most appropriate. But if the staffs have low competence and low commitment, a combination of high coaching, high supporting, and high directing behavior from organizational leaders is required.
As a last note, I want to restate clearly that strategic leadership can only be achieve when the leaders at the helm of affairs are strategic in their approach to matters. Secondly, I want you to know that effective strategic leadership skills can be developed by anyone; all you need is the willingness to learn.