With the smorgasbord of leadership theories being studied by practitioners and researchers alike, there is one that always stands out for being at the pinnacle of the field; Strategic Leadership. The term strategic leadership often gets thrown about with a lot of clout. It’s a very impactful term, but what is it? And how can someone become a Strategic Leader?
Strategic leadership is the overarching term that encompasses three of the main leadership theories; Charismatic, Visionary, and Transformational leadership. Each of these three leadership theories, in their own right, has the ability to develop the leadership potential of an individual. However, by mastering more than one, leaders have the potential to increase their impact exponentially.
Charismatic leaders have the ability to build rapport with other individuals. Fundamentally, we follow people who appeal to us: businesses are no different. Organizations are multiple people working towards the same goal connected by relationships. A leader needs strong relationships with their followers; it is the motivation that causes them to act. Strong relationships occur by developing a rapport with individuals or groups, creating a lasting sense that you care about them. Both Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau are great examples of Charismatic leaders. Watch their ability to make an audience laugh or how on they show emotion when giving speeches on difficult issues. Both men can be related to because they have the ability to show their human side.
One of the most important attributes a leader can have is their vision; who will follow someone who doesn’t know where they’re going? Leaders need a clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve and how they want their world to be. Visions are often based around solving major problems, they may not have an absolute plan to solve the issue but they can preach a better vision than the current reality. It is their passion and will to overcome the issues the face that inspires others to help them achieve their goal. Take Martin Luther King Jr. and his I have a dream speech for example. He sets out a clear vision of what he wants the future to look like. He doesn’t set out a plan of action; he uses emotive language to highlight inequality and points out that there could be a fair society that benefits everyone. His vision allowed others to picture themselves within the future he describes. This influences those around him to create the change.
Transformational leaders have the ability to develop the capabilities of those around them. Only way to be a great leader is to have a great team. Rarely do teams come together with perfect attributes in the beginning, some need to be developed. It’s the reason that every sports team in the world spends countless hours practicing. John Maxwell said, “To add growth, add followers- to multiply lead leaders”. Not everyone is a born leader though; many have to be cultivated through out their careers. This is what brings benefit to transformational a leader; through developing skills in others, they are able to reap the rewards of their follower’s labour. Take any great sports coach, they lead through their ability to develop the talent they have working for them.
Each one of these styles can make you a successful leader, but to become a truly great leader, one to be remembered in history, you’ll have to draw from each of these three competencies. A strategic leader is someone with a vision, who can build relationships and then enhance the capabilities of their followers. That’s what it takes to be a successful strategic leader.