Strategic Leadership – Demystified

What does it mean to lead strategically?

In their book Changing Strategic Direction, Peter Skat-Rordam and Daniel Muzyka share findings gleaned from experience and research across several companies. One key lesson is that while organizational strategic plans are important, leaders’ nimbleness, agility and ability to change plans are even more important.

I like the helpful way these experts boil down strategic leadership into three areas: strategic thinking, strategic learning and strategic action.

Here are some tips in each of these areas for improving strategic leadership:

Strategic thinking

  • Dig for the root of the problem vs. focusing on symptoms.
  • Seek to understand and empathize – with clients, colleagues and direct reports. This is a crucial part of design thinking, which can be a great way to solve a problem or meet a need.
  • Combine intuition and data; use informed intuition.
  • Balance short-term and long-term.
  • Consider how to build alignment and shared purpose.

Strategic learning

  • Be curious and open to new ideas. Don’t critique or resist too quickly.
  • Experiment with ideas and solutions.
  • Refine constantly.
  • Learn from mistakes, and apply lessons learned.

Strategic action

  • Make a choice.
  • Identify what success looks like and then celebrate progress along the way there.
  • Begin quickly – before you have all the answers.
  • Take smart risks.
  • Influence others to collaborate with you to make it happen.
  • Calculate others’ reactions and act accordingly.
  • Resource appropriately.

Strategic leaders have their organization’s strategy in mind as they think strategically, learn strategically and act strategically.


Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams improve engagement, effectiveness and impact. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.