What is Strategic Leadership? [Pros and Cons]

If visionary leaders were given a blueprint for solving a problem and then strived to align all parts of the company with this new objective, then you would have a strategic leader. Strategic leaders have a vision they are moving toward, but unlike visionary leaders, these individuals do care about the meticulous details and move past inspiration to manage the company to success. If a company is trying to get all departments on the same page toward one goal, or need to streamline processes better to accomplish an objective; strategic leaders are the best people for the job. They tend to think big picture, but they also consider the steps needed to reach the other side.


Part 1

The Importance of Strategic Leadership

Strategic leaders are known for thinking ahead, preparing for succession, and implementing a strategy. If companies are struggling in these areas, then it would make sense to take a look at bringing in a strategic leader.

The modern workplace has a major issue with leadership succession and strategy implementation:

  • 56 percent of organizations are not ready to meet leadership needs. They are not training up the next generation of leaders to take over after current workers retire.
  • 77 percent of organizations overall are experiencing a leadership gap. The learning and development used to train leaders are largely missing in most organizations.
  • In a PwC survey, of the 700 executives questioned, only 16 percent were rated as effective in strategy or execution, and eight percent were rated as effective in both.
  • 70 percent of leaders spend less than a day a month on reviewing strategy.
  • 30 percent of companies cite failure to coordinate across units as the single greatest challenge to executing their company’s strategy.

Part 2

The Traits and Principles of Strategic Leaders

Many times, the attributes of a strategic leader will depend on what they are being brought in to deal with. If communication is an issue, a strategic leader will likely look different than someone who is brought in to handle operational processes. However, some traits are universal in how these leaders operate.

  1. Effective Communicators

    To get everyone on board with a vision, strategic leaders have to be clear and purposeful communicators. Their goal is to get everyone on their team on the same page, so they will be explicit in directions and will likely make “one-on-one” meetings a priority.

  2. Dedication

    These leaders share the passion of a visionary or charismatic leader, but they also commit to finishing the job. They will likely roll up their sleeves with their employees and jump in to get done whatever needs to be completed. They not only dream big, but they put in the work reach the goal. They are dedicated to finishing at all cost.

  3. Forward-Thinking

    Strategic leaders live in the details, and they know everything will likely not happen as it is supposed to. Therefore, these individuals will attempt to anticipate problems and plan for them. They will look for weak areas and will try to work with teams to keep from falling into a problem area.

  4. Challenging the Status-Quo

    In addition to being forward thinking, these individuals also challenge the ideas of themselves and those around them. They do not want to conduct business as usual, and are always looking for a way to create better processes. “This is the way we have always done it,” will not be an adequate response to a seasoned strategic leader. They thrive in an environment where they can challenge old conventions to create better solutions.

  5. Structured

    While strategic leaders can be innovative and comfortable breaking away with tradition, they are not erratic. Charismatic leaders may make decisions based on some gut-feeling, and strategic leaders would never consider such a thing. They do not make decisions or move forward without running decisions through a strategic lens. They are disciplined in always keeping the objective first. They will not make a quick decision, but they will decide if it fits with the short and long-term goals of the company, the tradeoffs involved.

  6. Unity

    Like democratic leaders, strategic leaders understand the importance of having everyone on the same page. They do not enjoy division or silos. Instead, they recognize that for projects and processes to succeed, everyone has to buy-in. Therefore, they will do what they can to align the company. This is where the communication skills of a strategic leader shine through. They are adept at unifying the company toward one common goal.

Strategic leadership style shares a lot of characteristics with other leadership styles. However, the top two qualities of strategic leaders would be the discipline of charismatic leaders and the dedication to a vision that visionary leaders exemplify. Individuals who subscribe to this leadership style care about efficiency and creating processes that are optimized for clarity and ease. If there is a better way of doing something, strategic leaders are going to find it. These individuals are also adaptive. They will do what they can to keep the company stable in the event of an unforeseen situation. They are highly intelligent, and they promote a culture of learning and discovery. They understand that the more people know, the more capable they are of making a difference.

Part 3

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Strategic Leaders


  • Encourages “Objective” Thinking It is so easy for leadership to become caught up in day-to-day activities and forget to plan for the future. Strategic leaders cause management to understand the connection between daily work and the future.
  • Creating a Framework for Strategic DecisionsEvery employee is not going to be aware of every single objective. Therefore, a strategic leader could install a strategic model where every decision could be considered. This will help everyone stay on the same page and ensure the whole company is moving in the same direction.
  • Supports UnityThis trait is definitely an advantage. These leaders will go out of their way to encourage buy-in and unity, two things all companies need to move forward successfully. This can diminish the uprising of conflict, and encourage interdepartmental collaboration. It is easy for departments to become siloes, and strategic leaders will do what they can to prevent this from happening.
  • Build CommitmentGood leaders understand that if they want employees to take on certain traits, they have to model them. Strategic leaders are all about dedication to the company and exemplify a commitment to business objectives. It is likely that these qualities will rub off on employees associated with them.
  • More Clarity to TasksThere are times when many employees can say they do not understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Strategic leaders make a practice of clearly communicating the importance of a task, and how it relates to the overall goals. In a way, they provide more meaning to the work employees do.

Part 4


  • It Is Impossible to Predict the FutureStrategic leaders, much like their visionary counterparts are attempting to keep one foot in the present while trying to predict the future. Unfortunately, the future does not always happen as anticipated.
  • Will Not Address the Here and NowStrategic leaders care about the current happenings in a company about how they impact the future. Therefore, it is possible for these individuals to develop “tunnel vision” and forget to address current problems within the company. There might be issues that have nothing to do with an objective that should still be handled.
  • Flexibility Is DifficultWhile some strategic leaders might be adaptable, their framework will likely not be. Strategic plans are implemented all over the company, so if something needs to be changed or altered, it could adversely impact the work of an entire department.
  • Can Stall Company GrowthWhile it might not seem like it, the personality of a strategic leader could make or break an organization. If they are open to risk and look at the future with idealism, they could miss problems that could have been on the rise. On the opposite end, the strategic leader could be more conservative and not as open to taking a risk; this could halt company growth and prevent the organization from capitalizing on opportunities that could have benefitted them.
  • Potential ExpenseImplementing a strategic plan and aligning the company behind it can be expensive and costly. If something does not go as planned, it could mean layoffs, the cancellation of a project, or the eradication of a whole department. In and of itself, a strategic plan is a risk.

Part 5

Strategic Leadership Best Practices

  1. Always Have a Risk Management Plan

    It is not enough to just rely on a strategic plan. Strategic leaders should always create a risk management plan to deal with situations that may not go as planned. This will add more confidence to decision-making and can even address budgetary changes as a result of altering the plan.

  2. Keep an Eye on the Day-To-Day

    Strategic leaders have to make sure they balance day-to-day issues with forward-thinking plans. They should have weekly meetings with staff or departments that allow them to inform them of any issues they are running into that are related or unrelated to the strategic plan. This can help them keep an ear to the ground to know if there are any daily issues they need to address.

  3. Establish a Planning Team

    Strategic leaders should think about establishing a planning committee. These teams should be comprised of frontline staff, mid-level managers, and senior leadership who can help strategic leaders understand the inner workings of the company so they can make more informed decisions. No one will know the organization like these people, and they can help strategic leaders better understand the culture of the company.

  4. Hire a Consultant

    This might not be possible for every organization, as it can be a dent in the budget. However, it would not be a bad idea to bring in an impartial third-party to help manage risks and strategize with the strategic leader to plan for hiccups in the company.

Strategic leaders have the task of balancing the future with the present. Those who can efficiently manage risk and become adaptable are the most successful of strategic leaders.


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