Can You Teach Strategic Leadership?

Last year, PwC conducted a study to determine the incidence of “strategic leaders”.  By this they sought out not just leaders with strong operational skills but those with the knowledge, confidence and experience to anticipate and overcome transformational challenges.

strategic leadership

The research methodology was rigorous. The results were revealing.  Only 8% of 6,000 respondents could be considered strategic leaders, or effective at leading transformation.  If you consider that disheartening, try this: the same study was undertaken 10 years ago when only 7% made the grade.

In other words, a decade of focus on organizational leadership, not to mention the challenging times requiring it, produced only a marginal shift.

How big a problem is this?   Dangerously big.   If a company is operating successfully, it can be hard to assess the quality of leadership, to determine if the top executives are operating strategically.  We find out when normal business is disrupted in a time of crisis.  But very often that can be too late.

Given the emphasis on training leadership candidates, the percentage of strategic thinkers emerging at the top would suggest one of two things: either the generally accepted leader training is missing the point, or perhaps the characteristics of strategic leadership are not necessarily present to start with.

The authors of the PwC study believe the problem goes back to the manner in which organizations traditionally develop and promote their leaders.  Individuals get onto the fast track usually by showing ambition, above average performance and short-term problem solving.


Now what we’re looking for

These are not, however, indicators of strategic leadership capabilities.

The study suggests strategic leadership begins at home.   More important than a training curriculum is the culture in which the potential leader is working.  It starts by recognizing that your work force already holds emerging strategic leaders, whose skills may be being overlooked or stifled.

Hence the 10 Principles of Strategic Leadership are based on the idea that employees can develop into strategic leaders. This will be enabled by creating the right conditions and maintaining these conditions over time.

To create this learning culture, here are the 10 principles: distribute responsibility, be honest and open about information, create multiple paths for raising and testing ideas, make it safe to fail, provide access to other strategists, develop opportunities for experience-based learning, hire for transformation, bring your whole self to work, find time to reflect, and recognize leadership development as an ongoing practice.

You can study these in detail here.

All well and good, you are saying to yourself, but what about tomorrow?  This may be perfect but it takes time.  Are you saying they all have to be grown from seed?  What if I need such a strategic leader before the incubator spits one out?

We can help you there.

The next post in this series will look at how you can find and hire strategic leadership.

And in the third and final post, we’ll talk about the merits of executive coaching.

Let us hear from you! Leave a comment below on the challenges of strategic leadership.













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