Strategic Leadership: Create and Lead High-Performance Teams in Five Steps

strategic leadership, strategic leadership example, strategic leadership characteristics, Importance of strategic leadership

Strategic Leadership: Create and Lead High-Performance Teams in Five Steps

Running a business today can feel like standing in a whirlwind; new technologies emerge overnight, customer expectations shift, and competition is tighter than ever. That’s enough to make even the most seasoned leader feel like they’re constantly playing catch-up.

But what if I told you there’s a way to transform your team from low-performance to high-performance? It’s not a fancy new productivity app or a motivational speaker with a booming voice. It’s something far more fundamental: strategic leadership.

Think of strategic leadership as the difference between aimlessly wandering and having a clear roadmap to your destination. As a leader, you set the vision and direct your team through the process.

You might think, “Strategic leadership sounds great, but where do I begin?” Don’t worry, you’ll get answers. In this article, I’ll break down the basics of strategic leadership and give the five key steps to implement immediately.

Key points from the article:

  • Strategic leadership involves creating a vision for an organization to adapt to or stay competitive, focusing on planning, leading, and resource optimization.
  • Strong communication, positivity, collaboration, honesty, diplomacy, and humility are key traits that define strategic leaders.
  • Key steps to becoming a strategic leader involve understanding oneself, focusing on the big picture, developing emotional intelligence, being visionary, and engaging in continuous learning and development.
  • The challenges of strategic leadership include the potential focus on future issues over current problems and the difficulty of flexibility.

What Is Strategic Leadership?

Strategic leadership is a practice in which leaders develop a vision for their organisation that enables them to adapt to or remain competitive in a changing economic and technological climate. This leadership style is characterised by visualizing, planning, leading, and maximizing the resources available to execute strategies efficiently and successfully.

Strategic leaders often act as the motivating force for an organisation, letting individuals know their role in achieving the vision. This leadership style always provides direction, encourages employees to be productive and independent, and pushes forward their ideas.

Strategic leaders also cultivate innovation. They challenge the status quo through innovation, instilling a spirit of innovation in their organisations. This can involve making iterations on existing products or services, exploring new ideas and markets, or creating an entirely new space where only the innovator resides.

They seek wisdom and constantly test what works and what doesn’t. Leaders who know will also desire to share it with others at every opportunity so that others may benefit from it.

Strategic leaders also refine their strategies, believing they and their teams can continually improve. They analyse current data, check in with coworkers, and measure how far they are from hitting goals. They aim to refine their strategies as much as possible without wasting time or effort.

Strategic leadership is not about micromanaging or being a reactionary leader. Instead, strategic leaders anticipate problems and see the bigger picture. They focus more on being revolutionary than merely reacting to situations.

Strategic Leadership Example

Examples of strategic leaders include Steve Jobs, known for his visionary leadership style. He had a keen foresight and was instrumental in designing the world’s first computer with a mouse that used a Graphical User Interface (GUI). His innovative mentality and attention to detail led to Apple’s success.

Other examples of strategic leaders include those who provide clear direction, establish a framework for executing the strategy, and encourage teams to deliver the expected results. These leaders are known for evaluating situations, determining the best course of action, and adjusting as needed. They also build relationships, listen to others, find common interests, share power, and build trust.

Strategic Leadership Characteristics

Several key traits characterise strategic leadership:

  • Strong Communication: Effective communication is crucial in strategic leadership. Leaders must convey their vision and align their team with strategic objectives and goals. This involves expressing the vision clearly and making oneself accessible to discuss issues or concerns. 
  • Positivity: A positive attitude is infectious. Happy and positive leaders can inspire their teams to work harder and be happier. This involves creating a positive, supportive environment during the workday.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration is a powerful aspect of strategic leadership. It creates transparency in the organisation and leads to trust. When leaders genuinely interest themselves in collaborating with their team, they foster a sense of ownership and support for their vision.
  • Honesty: Honesty is a fundamental trait of strategic leadership. Being forthright about successes, failures, and reasons for choosing specific strategies and goals over others earns the team’s respect. The organisation’s transparency helps gain everyone’s trust and understanding.
  • Diplomacy: Strategic leadership often requires tactfulness. Diplomacy is a skill that helps leaders manage conflicts using negotiation and sensitivity. It involves an unbiased, strategic approach to problem-solving.
  • Humility: Humility is highly valued in strategic leadership. Humble leaders admit their mistakes, apologise when necessary, and share credit. Recognising that one doesn’t know everything and being open to learning are key aspects of humility.

The Importance of Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership plays a crucial role in driving organisational success. Here are some reasons why strategic leadership is important:

  • Understanding Self and Values: Strategic leaders understand themselves, their values, and what matters to them. They know their values and are clear about their purpose.
  • Interest in Others: Strategic leaders show interest in their team members. They listen attentively as part of their leadership strategy, making team members feel more invested. This creates an environment where people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  • Effective Communication: Strategic leaders are clear and purposeful communicators. They aim to get everyone on their team on the same page, prioritising “one-on-one” meetings.
  • Execution: Strategic leaders are not just planners; they can also execute plans and goals. They understand how to take action on a plan or their goals and inspire others to do the same.
  • Dedication: These leaders share the passion of a visionary or charismatic leader, but they also commit to finishing the job and reaching their goals.
  • Forward-thinking: Strategic leaders anticipate problems and plan for them. They look for weak areas and work with teams to avoid falling into a problem area.
  • Unity: Strategic leaders understand the importance of having everyone on the same page. They do not enjoy division or silos. Instead, they recognize that everyone has to buy in for projects and processes to succeed.
  • Cultivates Innovation: Strategic leaders have the courage and mindset to challenge the status quo through innovation. They instill a spirit of innovation in their organizations.

Disadvantages of Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership, while beneficial for long-term growth and alignment of the company’s objectives, does come with several disadvantages:

  • Prediction of the Future: Strategic leaders attempt to predict the future to inform their decisions. However, the future is inherently unpredictable, and strategic plans may not always align with actual events. This uncertainty can lead to missed opportunities or unnecessary risks.
  • Focus on the Future Over Current Problems: Strategic leaders often focus on the future and how it impacts the company. This focus can sometimes lead to “tunnel vision,”” causing them to overlook immediate problems.
  • Difficulty in Flexibility: Strategic plans are implemented across the company, and any changes or alterations can adversely affect the work of an entire department. This rigidity can make it challenging for strategic leaders to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Potential for Stalled Growth: The company’s growth could be stalled depending on the strategic leader’s risk tolerance. If the leader is too risk-averse, they might miss growth opportunities. Conversely, if they are too open to risk, they might jeopardize the company’s stability. 
  • Costly Implementation: Implementing a strategic plan can be expensive. If the plan doesn’t go as expected, it could lead to layoffs, project cancellations, or even eliminating entire departments.
  • Potential for Inflexibility: Strategic leadership can be rather inflexible. If the framework doesn’t emphasize innovation, creativity can be stifled. Also, the formal processes can generate an environment where new opportunities are not properly explored.
  • Complexity of Implementation: Strategic leadership involves considering short- and long-term objectives and analyzing current and future trends. This complexity can make implementation difficult and time-consuming.

How to Become a Strategic Leader

  • Understand Yourself: Strategic leaders need to understand who they are and what matters to them clearly. This includes knowing their values and having a strong sense of self.
  • Focus on the Big Picture: While tactical leaders may be concerned with daily operations, strategic leaders are more interested in the organisation’s overall direction. They understand where the organization is headed and how to utilize resources best to get there.
  • Develop Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is crucial for strategic leaders. It allows them to adapt to changing environments and remain forward-looking, enabling them to spot industry trends and directions before others in the organization do.
  • Be Visionary: Passion, purpose, and conviction are essential traits of strategic leaders. These attributes drive them to create a vision for the future and inspire others to work towards achieving it.
  • Continuous Learning and Development: Leaders must continuously update their knowledge and skills to stay ahead. This could involve taking relevant courses or training programs, reading industry publications, attending webinars, and participating in networking events.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to strategic leadership. Different leaders may have different approaches based on their style, the nature of their role, and the context of their organization. However, these steps provide a general framework to guide anyone looking to become a more effective strategic leader.


Strategic leadership is vital because it helps set clear objectives, foster collaboration, execute plans effectively, stay dedicated, be forward-thinking, promote unity, and cultivate innovation. Becoming a strategic leader involves focusing on the bigger picture, understanding the organization’s direction, and leveraging resources effectively to achieve the desired outcome. It requires various skills and qualities, including emotional intelligence, adaptability, passion, and vision. Here are some steps to help you become a strategic leader


How do you show strategic leadership?

Strategic leadership involves thinking, influencing, asking the right questions, strong communication, passion, commitment, positivity, innovation, collaboration, honesty, diplomacy, and empathy. It involves understanding the relationship between an organization and its environment, building commitment, asking the right questions, fostering innovation, promoting collaboration, being honest, managing conflicts tactfully, and understanding the team’s perspective. Strategic leadership is a continuous learning and improvement journey.

Why is strategic leadership the best?

Strategic leadership is essential for organizations to achieve short-term and long-term goals by developing a decision-making framework, creating a vision, and fostering cooperation. Key roles include decision-making, managing people, and sustaining an influential organizational culture. Despite its drawbacks, strategic leadership guides organizations towards long-term success.

What does a strategic leader do more of?

Strategic leaders prioritise long-term planning and decision-making, balancing short-term needs with long-term goals. They make difficult decisions, influence others, manage change, and measure performance against strategy. They must develop strategic thinking, leadership, decision-making, communication, and performance measurement skills and continuously learn and adapt to changing business environments.


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