The role of a Strategic Leader in an Organization Herman A. Mason Jones International University Abstract The notion of management has been in existence since time immemorial, and so has the concept of strategy, which finds it roots in military parlance. It was the responsibility of the military leader to organize and plan his military engagements in such a way as to achieve the maximum success of his armies. The military leader had to strategize, and make positive or progressive decisions to ensure the success of his armies.
So it is in the area of management where it is the responsibility of the executive management to prepare strategies that will ensure the growth and profitability of their organizations. A strategic leader has to be cognoscente of numerous elements of his business, and not least among them is human relations. Strategic Leadership includes strategic planning, and strategic management, which will all come together to form the organization or the firm. Introduction Management thought as an emerging discipline had its beginnings in the Industrial Revolution, and has gone through many changes to this point.
Industrial and business structures have also experienced numerous changes, especially in the way business is conducted, and the expectations of shareholders, managers, and workers. The social person era heightened the importance of the worker within an organization, and also brought to the fore the necessity for more attention to be paid to human relations. Management thought today has been accepted as a science, and a discipline; however this was not always so, as it was believed that managers, supervisors, or foremen were created from within his particular industry through knowledge obtained.
Today management is looked at from two perspectives, namely Academia and Practitioners. The manager with knowledge gained from the books, and the manager who might be formally educated in another discipline, or not but knows the business he is involved in inside-out. This paper will be looking at the role of a strategic leader, which cannot be separated from the role of both a strategic planner, and manager. Attention will also be paid to role of, and the arguments between academic and practitioner managers.
All these elements will be tied together by looking at the concept of Learning Organizations. The Role of a Strategic Leader Rowe (2001) defined the strategic leader as a person with the ability to influence others to voluntarily make day-to-day decisions that enhance the long-term viability of the organization, while maintaining its short-term financial stability. Strategic leadership has a responsibility to enhance the wealth creation process of the organization in which he/she finds themselves.
The presence of a strategic leader often times will manifest itself in the form of above-average returns. The presence of a strategic leader in an organization will result in wealth creation for the employees (with better wages, and benefits), customers (better pricing and value for their dollar), suppliers (quicker turnover of goods due to greater demand), and shareholders (where stock prices are monitored and makes the difference between success and failure) of entrepreneurial (medium and small businesses) and established organizations.
Within many organizations and within the leadership spectrum there are also other leadership types that are present, and the style of leadership present in an organization will determine the success of eventual failure of that entity. There are two other leadership types that are present within organizations and these are; Managerial Leadership and Visionary leadership. The managerial leadership type looks at goals and modern changes as necessities which have been forced upon him/her. This leadership types doesn’t take the initiative and see the task at hand as being part of the everyday blend of things.
This type of leader is trained and will be very stereo-typist. This leadership type is often found in government departments where rules are rigid, and the scope for the introduction of new innovations is not readily accepted due to budget constraints, and the fact that the organizations survival is not based on its profitability. The visionary leadership type requires power to influence people’s thoughts and actions. This type of leader requires total control of any situation that presents itself, which makes this style of leadership very risky.
A visionary leader tends to be very proactive as against reactive in the case of the managerial leader. In relation to being proactive this leader will follow an idea or proposal whether it is popular or not as long as he/she perceives it to have a glimmer of success. The visionary leader is a risk taker, and is shown as they will put their credibility of the line to equating power with the ability to achieve immediate results. There is the risk of losing self-control in the desire to obtain power.
And there is the risk that the presence of visionary leaders may undermine the development of managerial leaders who become anxious in the relative disorder that visionary leaders tend to generate (Rowe 2001) Within many organizations there are several types of leaders; however, it is the consensus of most scholars that without effective strategic leadership, the probability that a firm can achieve superior or even satisfactory performance when confronting the challenges of the global economy will be greatly reduced (Ireland and Hitt 2001) A strategic leader is someone who has visions of great thing and then takes the necessary steps on the path to achieving them. This leader will not only position himself and his organization strategically (in the right place at the right time), but will also utilize the skills of other leadership types in his attempt at achievement. Rowe 2001 ; Ireland and Hitt 2001 noted that the strategic leader is capable of working with any leadership style as he demonstrates the level of control necessary to determine the magnitude of their service. The managerial leader will not serve well with the visionary because of the ciaos within that leadership type.
The strategic leader is structured, organized and makes plans throughout all phases of his program towards the successful achievement envisioned. Most organizations in today’s business arena have made plans and projections for success; most have planning meetings every company fiscal year to go over the year that has passed and to set goals for the future. However, the achievement of that years goals are not only determined by the planners but in large part is based on the strength of the Leader; the CEO who must be able to not only ‘talk the talk but also walk the walk’, be able to designate, and assign responsibilities to able employees.
The strategic leader not only plans for the long-term, but is also flexible enough to handle short-term goals, and even situation that may pop-up in the middle of a structured situation. There have been numerous examples of strategic leaders in our present day society who have not only shown these skills, but through their business successes have been elevated to the top of their field; and are use as examples not only in academia but also in the practical sphere. They are notable citizens such as Bill Gates of Microsoft (Computer software), Howard Schultz of Starbucks (Coffee), and Oprah Winfrey (Entertainment), and they all demonstrate strategic leadership. As they have taken the bull by the horn in order to fulfill their planned objectives.
With that said there has been a number of companies that have great losses namely the continued destruction of shareholder wealth by organizations such as General Motors (MVA a negative $17. 9 billion at the end of 1998) and K-Mart (MVA a negative $1 billion at the end of 1998) suggests a lack of strategic leadership (Glenn 2001). The strategic leader should also be a strategic planner and manager. Strategic Management Management is an activity found in all organizations, both for-profit and non-profit. In both circumstances it seeks the optimum use of human and other resources in pursuit of its objective. Management instills integration within the whole so as to build a smooth running and profitable organization…
Strategic management is thinking in terms of the profitability of the organization as against increasing production. Strategic management is defined as a systematic look at the factors associated with customers and competitors and the organization itself. This will provide the basis for rethinking the current management practices. Its objective is to achieve better alignment of corporate policies and strategic priorities (Business Directory) By definition it is clear that the strategic leader’s objective is similar to the that of the strategic manager. This now bears out the question as to whether these two hats are worn by the same person?
Elms and Banner et al using the work of Andrews 1980: p18 pointed out that management and corporate “strategy is the pattern of decisions in a company that determines and reveals its objectives, purposes, or goals, produces the principal policies and plans for achieving those goals, and defines the range of business the company is to pursue, the kind of economic and human organization it is or intends to be, and the nature of the economic and noneconomic contribution it intends to make to its shareholders, employees, customers, and communities”. Strategic Planning When broadly defined a strategic plan is a plan aimed at creating a desired future. In ontrast, a long-term plan is aimed at meeting estimated future needs, a short-term plan at meeting current or immediate needs, and a tactical plan at realizing interim objectives that lead to the goal(s) of a strategy (Business Directory) The strategic leader must be a manager and a planner all rolled into one. We have seen that this distinction is possible; so the question must be asked in relation to businesses that are failing; why are they not on the path of strategic leadership, management, and planning? Management in relation to other disciplines’ in the business sphere Original management thought and practices were considered to be principles or guides to ones thought and actions.
They were put on a parallel with the norms of society (the unwritten rules). The formalization of these principles came about out of the desire by individuals who sought to transmit knowledge more coherently to those who aspired to be managers. Original managers and often times today’s managers are from other disciplines’ such as psychology, and sociology. Management because of its intangibility and theoretical nature could not compete with the established disciplines of accounting and finance whose results could be seen almost immediately. Under our present business culture the manager, (be they strategic or otherwise) has the responsibility of bringing all these other professions within the organization nto a cohesive whole for success of the firm. Managers, and management thought has grown to an encompassing point of control where is has incorporated unto itself other disciplines, Students today do their MBA’s with specialization in various other fields such as accounting, marketing, finance and human resources. It must; however, be noted that the management element of these degrees make up the major part of their studies. The 1945 preparation and eventual distribution of the Air Force Manual 2-1 (The Management Process) outlined five features which would be emphasized in their training program. These features were; planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, and controlling.
These are all features of the strategic leader, manager, and planner. This document; however, was more important in that the US government gave recognition to a formal approach to the concept of management and management study. Management study was now taken out of the realm of only business, and into the wider society. Management thought and the Organization has grown over the ages to the point where the organization is no longer a just for profit system, but is now also a learning organization. The firm not only trains from within, but also seeks to obtain the best and most qualified people to maintain its structures. The organization of today uses both academic based management cholars and experienced practitioners to fulfill their objectives. The recognition of the firm as a learning organization has led to the growth and recognition of other elements of management and none more so than human resources. In most organizations it is a department on to itself, but has the responsibility of relation to all levels of the organization. They are the buffers between executive management and lower level management and then general workers This department of the organization is considered to be the ‘know it all within the firm’ Academics vs. Practitioners Koontz 1955 said that academics need to create new approaches with management elevance, so that it can be relevant to the management practitioner. He went on to point out that academics are coming up with ideas and theories that the practicing manager has known for ages. Porter and McKibbin 1988 commented that management professors lacked relevant work experience, and were too narrowly educated to appreciate the complexities and subtleties’ of practical business. Organizations have developed tremendously over the last 20 years and with that we have seen a continual amalgamation, and cooperation of thought and application between these originally antagonistic perspectives. The learning organization has been a driving force in his respect, and with continual need for education in this changing business atmosphere there is a crossover of practitioners in to the academic frame and vice-versa. There is no one perspective on this issue which can demonstrate conclusively that management need to be; or is better if a particular path is followed. Feyol being a practitioner himself adheres to this line of thinking, but he too concedes that there is room for both elements to operate. Today that cohesion is be demonstrated nowhere more evident that within our MBA and DBA programs. (Here various disciplines are merging to create the ultimate manager) Conclusion The strategic leader is a manager, organizer, and planner; whom some would say is a anipulator of situations with a goal in view. The question must be asked whether all of us in our upbringing has not been groomed to be in the position that we are in now? Haven’t we all been molded and manipulated into the thoughts that we now hold? The sociologist calls this process socialization. Strategic leadership as perfect as it might seem has been achieved by numerous leaders, and it should be the ambition of all leaders to leave their names or mark on an institution as a tool of motivation for others. Strategic leadership is not a feature of management alone, because the theories presented can apply to many other disciplines such as politics, education and the church. The onclusion can be drawn that management has infiltrated other disciplines, or is management so essential to all walks of life that it has become difficult to tell where management begins or ends. References Elms, Heather, Brammer, Stephen, et al. New Direction in Strategic Management and Business Ethics Business Ethics Quarterly July 2010 Vol. 20 Issue 3 p 401-425 Erskine, Laura A question of leadership: What does effective leadership look like in a virtual work environment, and can web based leadership operate the same way that face-to-face leadership does? Leadership in Action Jan/Feb. 2009 Vol. 28 Issue 6 p12-13 2p. Ireland and Hitt et al Integrating entrepreneurship and strategic management action to create
Firm Wealth Academy of Management Executives 2001 vol. 15 No. 1 Koontz, Harold and O’Donnell , Cyril: Principles of Management: An analysis of Management functions New York; McGraw-Hill 1955 Porter, Lyman and McKabbin, Lawrence: Management Education and Development: Drift or Thrust into the 21st Century New York McGraw-Hill 1988 Rowe, Glenn, W. Creating Wealth in Organizations; The role of strategic leadership Academy of management Executives Feb. 2001 Vol. 15 Issue 1 p. 81-94 14p. Safra, Natalie, Nystrom, Josefin, Deng, Hanzhu Using the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development to complement existing leadership training approaches. 2009 Blekinge Institute of Technology