The general theme of most scholars defining strategic leadership refers to an organization’s upper-echelon management person or group. These individuals’ focus and decisions often have regional and global implications. These executive-level leaders must consider a few factors: diplomacy, information, military, and economics (DIME). For example, although military analysis generally applies to state governments, private industry strategic leadership must evaluate the stability and security of an area where their organization is operating or is looking to expand or invest.
Kaufman (2017) breaks these factors down in his “Basic Ideal Vision Element” table on an organization’s responsibility, directly, indirectly, if at all, on whatever factors are important in their decision-making process. Similarly, strategic leaders could use this chart to determine what impact other elements, such as all-hazard events or insider threats, could have on their organization. Kaufman’s principles mirror many of the guidance and recommendations provided by the Department of Homeland Security’s risk management fundamentals handbook (2011).
Similarly, strategic leaders are responsible for ” anticipating surprise” to protect their critical assets (personnel, facilities, information, and systems, for example) by analyzing external and internal threats and their respective impacts on and by the organization (Grabo 2002). This predictive analytics, which very closely mimics Bloom’s taxonomy, can also help identify future trends leading to the success and growth of an organization (Sarfraz 2017). For example, Sarfraz profiled Steve Jobs and his “i” technology innovations, revolutionizing various media mediums. However, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and associated Starlink systems are another example of strategic thinking in anticipation of a future need, such as providing internet to war-torn Ukraine.
In closing, different types of strategic leadership depend on the organization’s role within society, but many principles and theories remain the same. In addition, behavioral characteristics also often play a significant role in the success or failure of a strategic-level leader and the entity they are responsible for (Najmaei, Quazi, and Behnia 2017). For example, the previously mentioned Elon Musk’s unpredictable or confrontational demeanor played a role in his successes and failures or public perceptions of his decision-making with one of his other companies, Tesla. In contrast, Apple did not suffer as many significant ups and downs due to Steve Jobs’ actions or personality.
Finally, for someone to be an effective strategic leader, they should have strong competencies in mentoring, deliberate or repetitive practicing, dense experiences related to their organization and its operations, and reflective learning for sustaining or improving themselves and the entity they manage (Norzailan, Othman, and Ishizaki 2016). Mentoring is likely one of the most important because influential leaders need strong subordinate leaders supporting them who will eventually fill those strategic positions themselves one day.
Department of Homeland Security. 2011. Risk Management Fundamentals. Washington, D.C. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/rma-risk-management-fundamentals.pdf.
Grabo, Cynthia. 2002. Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, Joint Military Intelligence College.
Kaufman, Roger. 2017. “Practical Strategic Leadership: Aligning Human Performance Development with Organizational Contribution.” Performance Improvement 56, no. 2 (February 2017): 16–21. doi:10.1002/pfi.21664.
Najmaei, Arash, Zahurul Quazi, and Masud Behnia. 2017. Balancing Strategic Leadership: A Synthesis of Balanced Scorecard and Strategic Leadership Theories. Kidmore End: Academic Conferences International Limited.
Norzailan, Zumalia, Rozhan B. Othman, and Hiroyuki Ishizaki. 2016. “Strategic Leadership Competencies: What is it and how to Develop it?” Industrial and Commercial Training 48 (8): 394-399. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy2.apus.edu/10.1108/ICT-04-2016-0020.
Ben Varlese is a former U.S. Army Mountain Infantry Platoon Sergeant and served in domestic and overseas roles from 2001-2018, including, from 2003-2005, as a sniper section leader. Besides his military service, Ben worked on the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq’s protective security detail in various roles, and since 2018, he has also provided security consulting services for public and private sectors, including tactical training, physical and information security, executive protection, protective intelligence, risk management, insider threat mitigation, and anti-terrorism. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies from American Military University, a graduate certificate in Cyber Security from Colorado State University and is currently in his second year of AMU’s Doctorate of Global Security program.
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