Strategic leaders know that no method is perfect, and there’s always improvement people can make.
Maybe a team member will perform better with more resources and support, or perhaps a different coworker prefers a more hands-off approach. Leaders look at current strategies and try to refine them as much as possible so no time or effort is wasted.
Here are some examples of strategic leadership:
- Ray Dalio: At a time when financial institutions were all about crunching the numbers, Ray Dalio took a different approach. Dalio found that studying history can be a good indicator of future economic conditions. This historical qualitative research has allowed the financial analyst to predict economic booms and busts, including the downturn in 2008. Dalio’s unique strategy has allowed him and his firm, Bridgewater, to become incredibly successful for decades.
- Steve Jobs: To call Steve Jobs a visionary would be putting it lightly. The ways in which his leadership strategy has innovated and changed the world are difficult to measure. From the introduction of the personal computer to the smartphone, Jobs and Apple have been on the cutting edge for generations. There’s perhaps no better example of Jobs’ innovative thinking than iTunes. Before iTunes came along, consumers had only two options: buying overpriced CDs for just a couple of songs they wanted or pirating them. At the time, the pirates were winning. Through iTunes, Jobs created something new and better, satisfying consumers and saving the music industry.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: For good or ill, Napoleon Bonaparte put his leadership strategies to use as he conquered much of Europe. He was the first major world leader to introduce the concept of “total war” in the post-gunpowder era. Napoleon created his strategies from intense study of past military leaders like Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Hannibal. He was also a meticulous planner, having a firm knowledge of even minor details before launching a military campaign. Much of his strategy consisted of distractions leading to devastating flank attacks that divided his opponents. He found tremendous success on the battlefield until opposing nations started to use his own tactics against him.
- Bob Iger: When Bob Iger became CEO of Disney, he examined what the company lacked and came up with a vision for what they could achieve. Iger boiled down his strategy into three priorities. The first was to invest Disney’s capital in high-quality branded content. The second was to use technology to create better content and reach people in different ways. The last priority was to grow in different markets around the world. In the past decade, Disney has primarily succeeded on these points. With a streaming service like Disney+, the company has made strides and seen its influence grow even more than it had before.
- Sara Blakley: Like many entrepreneurs, Sara Blakley started with almost nothing but grew her business to the point where she became a self-made billionaire. During her journey, she maintained a clear vision of transforming the women’s undergarments industry despite numerous challenges and missteps along the way. She believed in her innovative product and knew who her audience was. Blakley also holds true to an ambitious mission, which in her own words is to “help women feel great about themselves and their potential.”
What Strategic Leadership is Not
Many people can confuse what strategic leadership entails, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction throughout an organization. As such, it’s essential to understand what strategic leadership is not.
First, micromanaging is not something a strategic leader does. While some managers may keep a list of tasks their workers need to do, it fails to account for vision and ambitious goals. Micromanagers insist that everyone does X, Y, and Z and may reprimand those who fail to meet this standard. On the other hand, strategic leaders cast their vision to their coworkers. There’s no need (or time) for them to micromanage and ensure everyone stays on task because everyone believes in that vision and works hard to achieve it.
Additionally, strategic leaders are not reactionaries. They don’t spend their time putting out fires. Strategic leadership anticipates problems and sees the bigger picture. Someone who only reacts can never innovate or lead. Strategic leaders should avoid the reactionary model and focus more on being a revolutionary.