setbacks in advancing the strategy
occur, and disenchantment and frus-
tration loom. But leaders can instill a
dedication to and zeal for the strate-
gic vision by communicating effec-
tively, telling powerful stories, and
sharing their own sense of enthusiasm
for and allegiance to the organization
and its goals.
Strategic leaders can further
influence the organization by align-
ing their systems, culture, and orga-
nizational structure to ensure consis-
tency with the strategy. For
example, CCL is working with a
small company in the tool industry
that has the strategic imperatives of
innovation, speed, and quality. The
company has made a structural
change—people now report to
process directors rather than func-
tional vice presidents. The company
is changing from a command-and-
control culture to one that empha-
sizes collaboration and focusing on
individual initiative. The reward sys-
tem encourages both individual and
company performance. The resulting
synergy is powerful: people receive
consistent messages about the
importance of innovation, speed,
and quality and are influenced to
behave in ways that support the
Now that the what and the how of
strategic leadership have been estab-
lished, the final question is who in an
organization should have responsibil-
ity for the tasks of strategic leader-
ship? The obvious answer is the peo-
ple at the top—presidents, CEOs, and
other senior officers. Certainly, when
an organization fails, it is the people
at the top who are held accountable—
witness Enron.
But it would be a mistake to think
that only senior officers can be
strategic leaders. Individuals whose
decisions have effects beyond their
own functional areas often have
opportunities to think, act, and influ-
ence as strategic leaders. For
instance, a purchasing manager who
is considering switching suppliers
can anticipate the impact the move
will have on the engineering and
manufacturing divisions, or a human
resource director in charge of craft-
ing reward systems can do so in a
way that encourages cooperation
across key business units.
But because strategic leadership
inherently involves multiple perspec-
tives and a gathering of information
from many sources, some organiza-
tions are beginning to see the
responsibility for strategic leadership
as lying not with one or a few indi-
viduals but with teams. The diversity
of perspectives and opinions that
naturally arises from a group can
provide a clear advantage in what
should be a collaborative process of
strategic leadership.
But there are challenges in the
team approach as well. Everyone has
seen a team that is made up of tal-
ented, resourceful, and committed
individuals but performs way below
expectations and is less than the sum
of its parts. Strategic leadership
teams can avert this outcome by
ensuring the presence of a number of
factors and being aware of potential
problems as they go through the
strategic processes of thinking, act-
ing, and influencing.
First, a team must have access to
and stay attuned to all the information
it needs to do its work—information
from each individual on the team,
from within the organization, and
from the external environment, such
as technological, cultural, and market
trends. It is critical that all this infor-
mation be shared with each member
of the team and brought to bear on
the task of strategic thinking.
Second, a team must be empow-
ered to act strategically. Each member
needs to have a clear idea of what the
team can and can’t do, and the team
needs to take timely actions within
those boundaries. Two of the biggest
problems that strategic leadership
teams run into are not having a strate-
gic vision that is shared by each
member and failing to balance near-
term tactics with long-term strategy,
so the team must establish and focus
on these critical prerequisites for
effective strategic action.
Finally, team members must trust
and respect one another so they can
engage in the final part of the how of
strategic leadership—influencing.
The team needs to be careful to send
out a uniform message about its mis-
sion and strategy so that others in the
organization become energized by
and committed to—rather than con-
fused about—the long-term goals
and understand how their roles and
their work are related to and support
those goals.
It’s important to remember that the
three processes of strategic leader-
ship—thinking, acting, and influenc-
ing—are not independent but inter-
dependent. No part of the process
occurs in a vacuum, and each relies
on the others. Nor is strategic leader-
ship a linear process—strategic lead-
ers should be thinking, acting, and
influencing each day. And perhaps
most important, strategic leaders
must be proficient at each part of the
process to be effective, for leaders
who come up with brilliant strategic
ideas but are unable to champion
them and see them through will not
find much success.
Tactical efforts need to
be aligned with and
supportive of the
long-term strategy.

Get Strategic Command: Taking the Long View for Organizational Success now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.