The question, “what is strategic leadership?” is bound for the ages. History is replete with several stand-alone incidents of leadership decisions gone wrong. You can take your pick from Hannibal, who scared Rome.
He traversed the alps and nearly conquered the Italian mainland because he utilized Elephants for shock effect. Or take the case of India and how she finally managed to overthrow the British Yoke after three centuries of plunder, mayhem and loot!
One of the reasons the monarchy has been and still is reviled and despised all across India was their blatant racism and treatment of the native population.
While other nations conquered by the British regime were too small or disparate even to mount an effective rebellion, India showed that winning independence was possible without having to spill much blood in the bargain.
When it comes to the query of “what is strategic leadership“, all that one has to do is to review how India managed to obtain her freedom despite Winston Churchill, the then UK PM reneging on his honour and his oath as a gentleman to grant India, her freedom after the conclusion of the second world war.
Naturally, Gandhi saw his chance and threatened Churchill in no uncertain terms that unless Churchill proved he was serious, the British army would not get the required men to fight the glorious war.
And as history shows us, Gandhi won the day with his strategy and effective Leadership. He managed this rather than have to fight another war of independence with much blood being shed by both sides. These are some of the critical skills of a strategic leader, do review the lot!
Strategic Leadership is never a leisurely cup of tea; it is generally a post where you are likely to be on edge most of the time. One of the reasons could be that as a leader who excels at strategy, you are expected to anciti[ate the actions of your rivals and take effective countermeasures in advance. If you think that sounds like a lot, you’re wrong.
Think of it like playing a game of chess, where you plan your moves while plotting your rivals’ moves on the chessboard, anticipating them in advance and making rapid counters. The only difference here is that you will no longer be playing on the chessboard.
Instead, you will be playing a compelling game of chess in real life with real people, standing in place of your pawns, waiting to carry out your commands. Now, that sounds heavy. It should, for a strategic leader often carries a heavy burden when he takes care of his people to the end.
Challenge the status quo:
It does not matter, take your pick, and you will find that nearly all strategic leaders in the past have constantly challenged the status quo, with good effect. Whether you are looking at Hitler or Constantine, they had constantly been vilified for their actions.
Granted that strategic leaders and morality often need to go hand-in-hand. That said, even a closer review of the first time they appeared on history’s landscape will show them trying to challenge the status quo of the prevailing time and age. Naturally, this often resulted in these leaders garnering massive popularity amongst the public!
Take the pragmatic approach:
When it comes to wars and battles, most people often want strategic Leadership at the helm to help lead the nation. And to an extent, they are right.
A strategic leader could reasonably anticipate the enemy’s moves, anticipate his actions and take the required countermeasures. But what sets apart a strategic leader is his ability to always go in for a pragmatic approach instead of an impulsive decision.
For example, in India, when terrorists holed up in the holiest shrine, known to all Sikhs as the golden temple in Punjab, there was not much the then-Indian PM Indira Gandhi could do about it.
She waited it out for a while, then opted to send her commandos to the temple and eliminate the terrorists. The operation was indeed a success; it eventually resulted in the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.
Granted that Indira is remembered to date as a strong and effective leader. And she was indeed able to utilize her strategic resources to good effect. While she may have been assassinated, in the process, the whole nation remembers her as an Icon who boldly stood up to take a practical, strategic decision when others hesitated.
Take hard decisions:
As a strategic leader, you must have a strategy in place. Usually, this will involve some quick, pragmatic thinking on your part. Chances are that you will be forced to make some hard choices; that’s what strategic Leadership does in a crisis.
Of course, when it comes to the corporate world, mass layoffs are often triggered by CEOs taking tough calls for the future of their business. This is what strategic Leadership is all about and why it assumes significance today!
“No one can make an omelet without breaking eggs”. Strategic Leadership is the same, but it comes with more rigorous standards. It is all a question of making the right choices, the sort that becomes transactional Leadership in the process.