What is strategic #leadership? I bet most of you can’t answer this question. Largely because there are so many definitions of leadership out there that we are all confused. Today I’m going to share the best definition of strategic leadership I have found from Ireland & Hitt (2005). One of the most important tasks of a leader of an organization is to set and implement strategy. But what do we mean by this? Here is Ireland & Hitt’s Six Components of Strategic Leadership
- Determine the organization’s purpose or vision.
- Exploit or maintain core competencies.
- Develop human capital.
- Sustain an effective organizational culture.
- Emphasize ethical practices.
- Established balanced organizational controls.
So what do these six components actually mean? The first, determining purpose or vision is pretty obvious. The leader needs to work with stakeholders, employees, customers, vendors, the community, and anyone else who has a stake in the organization to determine what purpose it is pursuing. But what about the other five component? They are the ways in which the organization ensures the attainment of the purpose.
First, every organization has a bundle of human, intellectual, financial, and social capital that together create core competencies. When these competencies are valuable, rare, difficult to imitate, they create a competitive advantage. But as the external environment changes and as the industry or sector changes, so too must an organization’s core competencies. So a leader’s job is to determine which core competencies are essential to attainment of the organization’s purpose, and to develop, maintain, and exploit those core competencies.
The third component of strategic leadership is to develop human capital. Human capital, that is, people, their skills, abilities, and intellectual property, are an essential input into the development and maintenance of core competencies. The development of people’s technical, social, political, and leadership skills are the bedrock of core competencies.
The fourth component, creating an effective corporate culture is essential to reinforce the values and purpose of an organization and emphasize the cultural practices that make the organization both effective and attractive as a work place. The fifth component, emphasizing ethical practice, is really a sub-set of creating an effective organizational culture. People will look to leaders to model acceptable behaviour. Essentially leaders must be ethical, as well as ask others to be ethical.
Finally the sixth component, creating balanced organizational controls, is perhaps the hardest of the six activities. How much control? How will you measure success? How will you communicate expectations? How will you ensure that your organization is attaining its purpose, building its core competencies and human capital, creating an effective organizational culture, and following ethical practices? So now that you know what strategic leadership is, it’s time to get started!
Ireland, R. D., & Hitt, M. A. (2005). Achieving and maintaining strategic competitiveness in the 21st century: The role of strategic leadership. Academy of Management Executive, 19(4), 63–77. http://doi.org/10.5465/AME.2005.19417908