Strategic Leadership Guide: Definition, Qualities, Pros & Cons, Examples
“We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
The above quote by Albert Einstein perfectly captures the need of strategy and the essence of strategic leadership. In order to solve problems and move forward, people need to interpret the world around them with a fresh insight and vision. While it’s easy to think that most leaders would go ahead with a strategy, all too often the idea of the strategic leadership framework is misunderstood as simply having a plan of action. The leadership style is much more than just an idea of how to implement certain policies or processes.
In this guide, we’ll examine the defining characteristics of strategic leadership and its purpose in business. We’ll also explain the core elements of the framework, as well as the requirements it imposes on a strategic leader. Before analyzing a few examples of strategic leaders in a variety of sectors, we’ll outline the advantages and disadvantages of the style.
UNDERSTANDING THE DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP
In order to understand what the strategic framework looks like in action, you need to dissect it. This essentially means looking at the definition of strategy and how it can be linked to leadership. Furthermore, you need to examine the purpose of strategic leadership, as it can help realize the requirements and objectives of using this style.
What is strategy?
Strategy is definitely a word the business world can’t get enough of. It is regularly flashed around, but what exactly does it mean to define things as strategic? The word is derived from the Greek word ‘stratêgia’, which means “art of troop leader; office of general, command, general ship’.
The Oxford dictionary defines strategy as, “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim’.
Therefore, strategy is about drawing up a set of steps and processes, which can help in achieving a pre-determined objective. To have a strategy, you need to first formulate an understanding of the situation and the objectives at hand. Once you’ve formulated an action plan, you must implement it, following the guidelines you’ve established.
For a deeper analysis of strategy, the below presentation by professor Michael E. Porter offers an in-depth analysis of the different aspects of strategy:
If you consider strategy as a selection of decisions or choices, which are aimed at achieving a specific goal in order to succeed, you can notice the link it has to leadership. In essence, leadership is about the ability to take actions that guide a group, such as an organization, towards set objectives.
Therefore, strategy adds another layer to leadership and is just another framework to use when leaders are considering the actions and processes they want to use in order to communicate, motivate and direct the group they are supposed to lead. Just like the authoritarian leadership or the charismatic leadership, the strategic leadership provides the leader with the framework for guiding the troops.
There are a number of different ways to define strategic leadership, but in essence, the definition in the Business Dictionary is an apt one. According to the definition, strategic leadership is “the process of using well considered tactics to communicate a vision for an organisation or one of its parts”. Furthermore, the framework uses a specific set of actions in order to achieve its objectives. The tactics referred to in the definition combine different management methods, motivation of subordinates, and persuasion techniques.
What is the aim of strategic leadership?
It’s essential to understand that strategic leadership isn’t just a tool for organizing a group or managing the operational aspect of a company. The purpose of the strategy involves changing or creating an organizational structure, which is better equipped for achieving the organization’s goals. Therefore, the aim of strategic leadership always includes an aspect of transformation. It is about creating a vision that helps to move the organization from point A to point B.
The requirement for change can stem from a variety of places and it doesn’t need to necessarily be about saving a failing organization, for instance. While strategic leadership is helpful in boosting company performance and could help solve the structural issues within an organization, the transformation can be driven by a positive need to reinvent rather than just finding ways to survive.
Nonetheless, improvements in productivity are often at the heart of strategic leadership. In a typical strategic leadership framework, these changes are supported by subordinate development rather than cuts in the operational structure.
The style believes in empowerment through enhanced understanding, which is mainly driven by its focus on both short- and long-term objectives. Strategic leadership is never about a quick fix, as it requires the organization to look to the future whenever it is implementing a change or making a decision. Therefore, things, such as firing employees, can be seen as counterproductive in terms of future growth and succession planning, for example.
Overall, the aim of strategic leadership is to prepare the organization for whatever future might bring. The style calls for predictive behavior and analytical decision-making. Actions should not be taken simply by focusing on the current, but each decision needs to implement an understanding of different future events and possibilities. The vision for the organization should focus on the future and the strategic leadership model needs to prepare the organization for whatever the future might have in store for it.
THE CORE ELEMENTS OF STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP
The above provides the basis for understanding strategic leadership, as it helps to forge the basis components of what the style is about. In order to go deeper into the workings of the framework, you need to examine the different components of it.
In this section, we’ll first explore the essential components of the leadership style, before outlining the key steps a strategic leader needs to take for the framework to work efficiently and effectively.
The essential components of strategic leadership
As we’ve mentioned before, strategic leadership is often considered similar to any operational leadership, i.e. the creation of an action plan. But the differences are there, with the most obvious issue being how operational leadership is just about directing resources to a certain part of the business to achieve a specific goal. On the other hand, strategic leadership is more about the transformation of the business, rather than achieving a specific goal. It’s about an overall vision and leadership, rather than a specific way of obtaining a desired outcome.
Richard L. Hughes and Katherine Colarelli Beatty, faculty members of Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), explored the core elements of the strategic leadership framework and found there to be three major elements that set the style apart from other leadership frameworks. In their book, Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success, they focus on the elements of scope, vision and change.
Firstly, the strategic leadership framework is broad in scope. In order for the style to work efficiently, the leader’s role is to understand the business is both interdependent and interconnected. Unlike in the operational leadership style, the focus is not on examining the impact of a single action to the immediate surroundings, but rather discovering how a decision in one sector will influence the whole of the organization. Therefore, strategic leadership is constantly evaluating the broad impact of actions and decisions, even when they don’t seem directly connected to different parts. The strategic leadership framework requires awareness of the whole organization, instead of just certain aspects of it.
The second defining element of the framework is its future-focused application. Strategic leadership is aimed at finding a balance between the long-term focus of styles, such as transformational leadership, and the short-term focused style of transactional leadership. The aim is to integrate the short-term decisions, which are a necessary part of any organization and its decision-making, with the far-reaching outlook. The leadership needs a long-term focus and vision to be part of the decision making process when it comes to implementing short-term solutions. In essence, the strategic leader must look at the impact an action might have on the short- and long-term.
Thirdly, the leadership framework is change oriented. There is a strong transformational element to strategic leadership. The framework sets out to have a deep impact on the organization’s vision and values, as well as its structure and systems. The style sets out to create more clarity and operational strength throughout it, with the leader having the biggest role in achieving this. As we’ll explain in the next section, the strategic leader must possess specific qualities and abilities in order to have a deep impact on the operational culture.
The above elements provide the cornerstone for strategic leadership. Perhaps more importantly, they also set it apart from some of the other leadership styles. Although many styles utilize the above points to some extent, they aren’t always working simultaneously.
Interested in becoming a strategic leader? Watch this great presentation.
The key steps of strategic leadership
When it comes to the implementation of strategic leadership, the structure that requires is rather direct. It starts with the understanding of the organization. The first step to starting a company-wide transformation begins with the realization of why the company exists. Every organization has a mission; a goal it works towards.
Before a leader can start fixing the processes or help subordinates be more productive, he or she needs to be aware of the purpose of the organization. For example, a company such as Soylent, which produces food supplements, has a purpose that is about ensuring people can stay healthy and get their nutrients whenever and wherever they are. In order for the strategy to work, and frankly for the company to survive in today’s market, it has to answer the question ‘Why?’
Related to the understanding of the company’s purpose is the realization of facts about its customers. The second step is therefore about figuring out who the customers are and what they want from the company. It might seem rather obvious, but the strategic leader has to understand the customer base as much as possible. The most important questions to answer are:
- What are the different types of customers the organization has?
- Why are the customers choosing the organization?
- What can the organization do better to increase the value the customers receive?
As the above questions are answered, the strategic leader is more able to devise an operational vision for the organization that will help the company achieve its objectives, both in the short- and long-term.
Once the above concepts are understood and analyzed, the leadership framework can move on to the third step of creating a vision for the organization, matching the demands of the customers and the company. The leader’s role essentially is to align the purpose of the company with the customer needs, creating a strategy that helps the organization to fulfill it’s goals and to provide customers the value they are looking for. The vision will be the framework for further action and it should guide the decision-making at all times.
The final step is, therefore, a process of crafting a strategy of steps that help realize the vision. The idea is for the leadership model to transform the company from its current state to the defined and desired state. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean strategic leadership only works for organizations that are in trouble. An organization can wish to move from place A to place B without it being driven by financial trouble, for instance. The transformational element of strategic leadership is simply about enhancing the company’s operations and perhaps changing the direction completely.
In their book, Hughes and Colarelli Beatty suggested that strategic leadership is essentially about answering three important questions: What? Who? How? You can see these questions clearly if you look at the steps above, as well as the three key elements of the framework.
The ‘What’ question for strategic leadership is about identifying the aspects the organization can improve and focus on in order to achieve better results. It closely deals with understanding the purpose of the organization and the needs of the customer. According to Hughes and Colarelli Beatty, the strategic leadership framework needs to focus on establishing strategy as a learning process. This is comprised of the following five points:
- Identify your current position.
- Recognize your purpose and the position you want to achieve.
- Realize the steps required to get there.
- Put the strategy in action.
- Assess and re-evaluate your progress.
The ‘Who’ in strategic leadership is about identifying the people that are crucial for the implementation of the above plan. Although the strategic leader is key in the process, the framework doesn’t exclude the input and involvement of the subordinates, such as some other leadership styles might do (see authoritarian leadership, for example). The strategic leadership should include both bottom-up decision-making, as well as the traditional top-down leadership. Hughes and Colarelli Beatty emphasize in their book that strategic leadership is not a framework solely created by individuals, such as the leader, but a collaborative activity.
Finally, the framework deals with the ‘How’, which is about the processes used for achieving the ‘what’ by the ‘who’. According to the book, the strategic leadership framework is driven by:
- Strategic thinking, which means having a vision for the organization and seeing innovative ways to overcome challenges.
- Strategic acting, which is an effort to implement the above discoveries.
- Strategic influencing, which deals with creating the right conditions for the organization to operate.
THE QUALITIES OF STRATEGIC LEADER
When it comes to being a leader, it often takes specific personality traits and skills to pull off a certain leadership style. Strategic leaders are no different and the qualities of these leaders have been extensively studied as well. Below are some of the core traits strategic leaders should have and the abilities they need in order to lead strategically.
The characteristics of a strategic leader
The strategic leadership model requires plenty from its leader. Since the leader has to be involved with every aspect of the organization, the needed characteristics emphasize the leader’s people skills and organizational abilities. The below five are the key characteristics a strategic leader should focus on developing in order to succeed.
Strategic leaders need to be able to look at complex situations and come up with the best solutions for moving forward. Therefore, the leader must be curious about the options and be able to question things. If you don’t feel inquisitive, you won’t be able to find strategic solutions to questions, as you’ll just rely on things you’ve previously learned.
Inquisitive personality can provide leaders a number of benefits. It can help in building relationship with other people because you are curious about their worldview and opinions. But it also makes learning new things easier. If you are able to find an angle that interests you, learning about almost anything is much easier and more fun.
When you learn new things, you naturally become better at leading since your understanding of the world is better. You can make connections and get a fresh insight by looking at things from new perspectives, rather than just staying inside your comfort zone.
Improving your inquisitive nature isn’t difficult to do. You simply need to start asking more questions, commit yourself to trying out new things and in immersing yourself with whatever you are doing. But it also requires you to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you occasionally will be wrong about things.
The above trait relates to the second characteristic strategic leaders possess which is all about resourcefulness. By becoming more curious about the world and the industry you work in, you’ll also enhance your ability to provide more things to the table. You become resourceful, as you have different skills, knowledge and understanding in your luggage.
According to Jason Shen, entrepreneur and product manager at Etsy, there are two types of resourcefulness you need to use. The first is about the internal resources you have at your grasp, directly related to your ability to be innovative. The second type is about the external things you need, but which you can’t control. These require you to interact with others and to find different ways to answer your problem. To improve your resourcefulness in terms of both these types, Shen suggests you need to be able to:
- Endure discomfort. This is about handling rejection, uncertainty and even the odd case of failure without it being the end of you or your goals.
- Communicate clearly. You need to develop the skills to convince people of your vision.
- Persevere through the storms. Being a leader or building a business are not easy things to do, but resourceful people have the grit to get through these with tenacity and determination.
Finally, Shen believes it takes three steps to become a truly resourceful person: improving your knowledge, taking action, and repeating the two steps until you reach your destination.
The above two characteristics are not enough to convince other people of your leadership qualities or guarantee they trust your vision. You need to be able to use your influence to get people on board. Influential people can succeed in achieving objectives because they make it easy for others to trust and listen to them. If you can’t get others to buy into your plan, you won’t be able to achieve it.
The ability to influence is especially important for strategic leaders because they are often implementing strategies others might not find as easy to follow. Changing a system around in a business, for example, can be difficult. The better you are at ensuring others trust you vision, the easier it will be to move towards the goals.
Fast Company outlines seven easy ways you can improve your influence over others:
- Becoming a better listener.
- Learning to read body language and making decisions based on that.
- Acknowledging the accomplishments of other people.
- Seeking advice and assistance, even if you don’t necessarily always need it.
- Improving your ability to remember personal details of your subordinates.
- Letting other people know you trust their abilities.
- Finding common ground with the people you meet.
You might have noticed how all of the above characteristics emphasize the leader’s ability to listen to others and to understand their perspective. Therefore, for the strategic leader to achieve his or her objectives, compassion becomes a key trait to use. If you are able to show compassion to other people, especially to your subordinates, you are able to gain their trust and respect. This can help in achieving the objectives and getting the followers on board with your vision.
In addition, compassion towards others also helps you to understand more about the different ways of looking at things and it could teach you a lot about creative thinking. By asking questions and looking at the view of the subordinate, you can perhaps find new and better ways of dealing with certain issues.
Tiny Buddha has plenty of materials on the website for embracing compassion. But in one of the posts, Kavetha Sundaramoorthy, sets out six simple ways you could show more compassion:
- Focusing more on listening to other people.
- Understanding the emotion behind people’s actions.
- Creating a support system around you.
- Seeing people as a whole person, not just focusing on the negative or positive aspects of them.
- Placing yourself in the other person’s shoes and focusing on the emotional experiences they might be going through.
- Forgiving failure whenever it happens, whether you make the mistake or when someone else fails.
Finally, a strategic leader must possess brilliant communication skills. Since you need to be able to manage and inspire the workforce, you must be able to get your message across in a clear manner. Furthermore, strategic leaders are often hands on with the job, which means communicating directly with customers and other stakeholders. If you can converse easily, you can get other people more invested in your chosen strategy.
While most characteristics on the list are qualities anyone can improve and train, communication skills are perhaps the easiest trait to master – you don’t need to be a natural in communication, as you can implement easy strategies in order to improve your skills. The key to a good communication comes from:
- Learning to listen – Don’t listen passively and wait for your turn to speak, but engage in the listening process. Pay attention to what the person is saying and even repeat the key points in your head.
- Use the BRIEF method – When you are communicating with a person, you should use the BRIEF method to keep your message concise and clear. The acronym stands for background, reason, information, end, and follow-up.
- Pay attention to your body language – Sometimes our body language can tell a bigger story than the words we use. If you are turned away from the person you are talking to, you look elsewhere when he or she speaks, or you play with your thumbs constantly, you will implicate boredom to the person.
The core abilities you need to lead strategically
On top of the above traits, strategic leaders also need three core abilities, which lay out the foundation for the action plan in the strategic leadership framework. These three abilities include:
- The ability to interpret. A strategic leader must be able to interpret complex situations in order to draw the right conclusions for making decisions. The leader must be able to review the situation at hand and understand the intricate details surrounding the issues. This includes things such as interpreting the current subordinate mood and productivity, the direction of the company and the industry, and customer needs.
- The ability to anticipate. As well as being able to read the current situation and what the different elements around the business or project mean, the leader must be forward-looking. Strategic leadership requires the ability to anticipate the future and the different outcomes, as well as the situations that could influence and change these predictions. The actions the leader takes now must be aware of the different roads ahead for the business.
- The ability to decide. But the leader cannot be inactive or spend too much time simply thinking about the different possibilities. The future and its many outcomes cannot stop the strategic leader from making decisions, because inaction can damage the business. Therefore, a strategic leader is able to interpret and predict and then come to a conclusion which tells the direction the company will move towards. Although strategic leadership is not about barking orders to subordinates, the leader’s role is still to point out the direction and coach the team towards it.
Finally, to get an insight into some of the abilities and skills strategic leaders need, watch the below video of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz explaining the habits of strategic leader.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP
When it comes to analyzing any leadership framework, you can’t just examine the strengths of the theory and the possible benefits of it. You must also focus on understanding the possible drawbacks of the style.
Not only can a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of the leadership theory help you realize whether it is the right style for you as a leader or for the organization, but also to ensure you implement the framework correctly and minimize the risk of the disadvantages.
So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of strategic leadership?
Advantages of strategic leadership
The implementation of strategic leadership has the obvious benefit of strategy. Any framework, which utilizes carefully constructed ideas of how to move forward, will benefit over a system of reactive actions. If you create a plan focusing on the long-term vision, as well as the short-term actions that support the vision, you create a stronger structure for operating.
The framework essentially provides more clarity in the decision-making process because it sets out the benchmarks of which actions and choices are measured against. The leader and the subordinates have a roadmap ahead of them, which guides them in all of their actions. Furthermore, since strategic leadership emphasizes the whole organization, rather than a narrow focus on specific sections, the entire organization will be moving towards the same goal.
Choices within the team or the organization are not done by narrow-minded understanding of what is best for the specific moment, but with the clarity of realizing the impact the decision has on other parts of the organization and the long-term goals of the company. Therefore, it removes or at least limits the possibility of the organization not following the same guidelines or working in hindrance to other parts of it. The internal conflict is limited, as the decision-making process always requires consideration of other parts of the business.
Overall, strategic leadership adds more clarity to operations as well. Having a clearly defined vision will make it easier for subordinates to understand why things are done the way they are. The objectives are clear, making it easier to implement procedures that move the organization towards them. Strategic leadership doesn’t just focus on the operational structure and the decision-making processes of the organization, but also the corporate culture and values.
Therefore, it adds clarity since each of these aspects are clearly outlined, ensuring there are boundaries to guide the overall direction of the business. This can have a strong impact in ensuring the success and positive transformation within the organization and its operations.
In addition, the strategic leadership’s action plan creates a set of objectives and tasks, which are clearly defined. This creates a situation where each of these goals and processes can be measured. By measuring performance and achievement, the organization can create a stronger understanding of what it is doing right and the areas it needs to develop and improve further. Furthermore, as studies have shown, the ability to measure performance can improve productivity much faster than if you don’t examine the elements while working towards an objective.
Finally, strategic leadership has the advantage of providing an organizational perspective. What this means is that by examining the different components and trying to predict the future, the leadership framework has a wider understanding of the organizational components. Not only does the framework help understand how specific sectors within the company impact each other, it also provides a deeper insight into how the organization relates to the wider industry.
This organizational perspective can help the company better prepare against competition and the future changes within the market, ensuring it is equipped to answer when changes take place in the sector.
Disadvantages of strategic leadership
Despite its numerous advantages, strategic leadership does have elements that can cause problems to an organization and its followers. Most of the drawbacks could be limited with proper implementation, but it’s nonetheless crucial to understand the limitations of the framework.
First problem comes from the style’s reliance on predicting the future. When it comes to drafting the policies and guidelines, the framework tries to assess what the future might bring and therefore to understand its impact on the operations. After the predictions, the strategic framework implements the decisions it sees fit with this information in mind.
The problem is that predicting the future is not only hard, but it’s impossible. It naturally helps to consider the different elements and to look into the possibilities of ‘what might be’. But relying on guesswork will never guarantee the choices you make are the correct ones.
The issue can manifest in two different ways. First, the organization might take a gloomy approach to the future and try reading into different worst-case scenarios. But if you try limiting problems too much, you can end up stalling the company’s growth and productivity. Risk-taking is not always a bad idea. On the other hand, you could predict the future with rose-tinted glasses and end up hurting the organization by avoiding proper risk-management.
Finding a balance between the two is not necessarily as easy as it might sound either. Finally, the future can always throw unforeseen elements in the company’s path. Even by carefully analyzing history and the current market conditions, it’s impossible to predict what the industry would look like in ten or even five years time because of the technological advancements, for instance.
Although strategic leadership framework tries to find a balance between the short- and long-term objectives, even the limited focus on long-term goals can hinder the short-term profitability and productivity of a company. As the choices the company makes will always consider the long-term impact of them, the creation of profit and improvements in productivity might take a second-place in the decision-making process. In certain companies, this could be a potential problem in dealing with investors and other stakeholders. Furthermore, if an organization is in an immediate trouble financially, for example, the strategic leadership style can be too slow to react to the issues.
Overall, the strategic leadership style can be rather inflexible. In order to counter the rigidness, the framework has to emphasize innovation in its action plan. If it doesn’t, creativity can stifle. This is down to the fact that strategy often creates established routines, which can lead to the organization becoming slow in reacting to change. In addition, the formal processes can generate an environment where new opportunities are not properly explored, but are simply rejected based on the set vision and strategy. In addition to inflexibility, the strategic leadership framework is a rather complex one to implement.
In general, the proper implementation of it can be difficult and lead to many of the above problems. The complexity stems from the need to consider both short- and long-term objectives, as well as the ability to analyze the current and future trends within the organization and outside of it. Therefore, the style is rather difficult to implement, and it can take a long-time for it to provide the results the leader and the organization are after.
How to take smart risks according to Sage CEO Stephen Kelly.
EXAMPLES OF FAMOUS STRATEGIC LEADERS
The world has witnessed plenty of leaders and some have been excellent, while others have failed to convince the public of their leadership qualities. Different leaders have also used various leadership styles and studying these leaders’ examples is a good way to learn about the specific frameworks.
In terms of strategic leaders, there are examples in the world of business, sport, politics and even entertainment, such as the film industry. Below are three examples of strategic leaders.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Politics requires plenty of strategic abilities because of the dynamic nature of the industry. A political leader needs to have a vision and a plan for achieving the objectives in order to succeed. While there are many examples of political leaders who’ve used strategic leadership, Hillary Rodham Clinton is one such example. The former Secretary of State and the First Lady of the US has applied visionary thinking with actual strategies of getting things done.
One of the clearest examples of her strategic abilities came during her husband’s first presidency. Mrs Clinton was in charge of transforming the country’s healthcare system, even at a great personal cost. The issue had been brewing in the US for a long time, but no one had the vision and strength to implement change within the sector. Although Mrs Clinton failed to implement the kind of healthcare plan she and her husband wanted to, the process did start a conversation in the country and eventually helped President Barack Obama pass his healthcare reforms.
Furthermore, Mrs Clinton applied the steps of a strategic leader during the process. She studied the healthcare system in the country closely and the problems it faced, she set up systems to get the citizens involved with the process, she outlined a detailed program for achieving the objectives the committee set out, and worked together with both American political parties in order to implement those changes.
A rather different example of a strategic leader comes from the world of entertainment. The award-winning director Steven Spielberg has showcased how the leadership framework can be used when contributing to the world of cinema as well.
Not only has his movies applied visionary and strategic tactics that enthral the audience – consider, for example, his decision to not show the shark until the final stages of Jaws – but also in how he approaches his projects as a whole. Spielberg is not afraid to tackle the big social issues that are being debated and his style of creating movies is therefore challenging and forward-looking.
Ed Burns, an actor who worked with Spielberg in the movie Saving Private Ryan, gave interesting insights into how the director operates in his book Independent Ed. Business Insider reported on how Burns writes about Spielberg’s unique way of leading actors to discover their own way, instead of fully directing them towards the right direction. The director simply explains the vision and then leaves the actors to making the right decisions based on this vision. To Spielberg, it’s not about telling others what to do, but helping them understand the direction together.
Interestingly, Spielberg has also directed a film of another strategic leader, US President Abraham Lincoln. The award-winning film clearly showcases an understanding of the strategic leadership framework and in the below interview, Spielberg discusses the movie and Lincoln’s leadership in an interesting way.
Howard Hughes might be among the most eccentric leaders the business world has ever seen, but the mysterious and elusive billionaire showcased certain strategic leadership qualities during his time. Although the businessman will be best remembered for spending his final years in secret and in fear of germs, he was able to completely transform the world of aviation and entertainment before his compulsive problems took hold.
Hughes was born into a wealthy family, but he had to quickly take responsibility of the business empire when his mother died when he was just 16 and his father soon followed her. Hughes understood himself as a leader and an entrepreneur, but not as a crafter. He hired an administrator to help with the daily grind. The account named Noah Dietrich ran most of the operations, but Hughes outlined the vision for the business and indulged himself with other projects on the side.
His love affair with airplanes led him to start building his own aircrafts. Hughes had a clear vision: he wanted to create the fastest aircraft in the world. Eventually, he managed to do that and simultaneously transformed the aviation industry as we know it with the introduction of better aerodynamics.
The eccentric billionaire also continued to make movies that he knew the public would like. One of his films, The Outlaw, was banned at the time, but this publicity only helped make it a popular hit after it was eventually released. He was able to implement his ideas in a manner that responded to the consumer needs of the time.
Hughes’ quote regarding airplane design highlights how passionate he was and how responsibly he took the implementation of his vision. He said,
“If I have made a mistake in the design, then I’m the one who should pay for it. I certainly would not ask somebody else to fly a plane if I were afraid to do it myself.”
Strategic leadership is among the most effective and popular leadership strategies. But the framework is also difficult to master due to its complexity. Creating a strategy is never an easy task and when you are using it to guide an organization to the desired direction, the enormity of the different elements adds plenty of challenges on the leader’s path. The style is definitely one that requires plenty of planning, as well as wide-ranging knowledge of different aspects of the industry and the specific organization.
But when the leader has the right qualities of knowledge, the ability to learn and communicate with others, the framework can be fruitful. Strategic leadership is good at providing a comprehensive roadmap to an organization and to help different parts within it work towards the same objective. Even though it is complex, it can provide a sense of direction and clarity for an organization.