In any organization in today’s modern world and even in the past, successfulness is more often than not gauged internally and externally by determining how the organization performs in comparison to its other competitors within the same competitive field of business. As such, it has become a necessary requirement for most organizational heads to be well equipped, and well versed with the application process and successful implementation of organizational strategic management procedures. Successful strategic management requires leadership from personnel who competently facilitate; the requisite analysis of the situation; make well informed decisions; and carry out the appropriate actions all in order to conceive and protract competitive advantages for the organization. This essay focuses on strategic leadership as a strategic management concept of creating an ethical and a learning organization, as well as its training, implementation and mentoring process.

Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) put forward the question, “How and why do some firms outperform others?” This is a question any organizational leader must consider critically, not only in their day to day managerial duties, but in their long term organization plans and decision making as well. This concept raises the issue as to what exactly strategic planning and management implementation requires from the leadership of the organization. Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner point out that the greatest challenge faced by most organizations’ leadership teams is coming up with long term business solutions and strategies that are sustainable and practical (2009).

Strategic leadership and planning is an important process that encompasses a number of fundamental attributes which are essential for creating an organization that functions within the acceptable ethical framework of the organizations industry, as well as within the universally accepted business and human behavioral ethics. As such, Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner argue that efficient strategic management gears its efforts towards realizing generalized organizational goals; the implementation process incorporates input from different stakeholders in the organization; decision making integrates and considers both short term as well as the long term outlook; and finally comprehends the need for making a compromise between efficiency and effectiveness (2009). Understanding these organizational elements and how to put them in practice makes the topic of strategic leadership an area of great importance.

Schoemaker, Krupp and Howland (2012) emphasize that in order for an organization to effectively survive and compete healthily in the world global markets with competitors in the same industry, a strong and effective leadership team is one of the most fundamental prerequisites. Such leadership embodies the active and skillful abilities of planning, creating and implementing productive and sustainable strategies for the organization. Erpestad (2012) points out that in this modern world, traditional models of leadership are not necessarily applicable or even adequate to deal with the modern global organizational challenges. He further adds that it is necessary for leaders’ in modern organizations, who still apply the traditional leadership model, to make the transition from the old to the modern and strategic model of leadership.

Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) categorically state that leadership is not about merely keeping the company from going under. This practice can be termed as ‘custodial management’ and it is a definite management style that gives the organizations’ competitor an unfair competitive advantage in the playing field. They define leadership as; “Leadership is proactive, goal-oriented, and focused on the creation and implementation of a creative vision. Leadership is the process of transforming organizations from what they are to what the leader would have them become.” (Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner, 2009)

Effective leaders understand the importance of implementing organizational strategic management. Strategic leaders are aware of, and work towards achieving three essential, interdependent pillars of strategic management (Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner, 2009). These three leadership activities, as agreed upon by many experts in strategic management, need to be examined and re-examined constantly to ensure that the course of action undertaken by the leadership is in-line with achieving the laid out organizational goals.

The first activity necessary for effective leadership is the ability of a leader to come up with a strategic direction or path intended for the organization to follow. It is a leadership activity that calls for the application of strategic analysis of the contextual situation facing the company. Thereafter, the leader subsequently formulates strategies that will lead the organization in a direction that is much more favorable. A direction that ensures it gives the organization a competitive advantage in the market against its competitors in that particular industry (Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner, 2009)

In order to bring this leadership activity to successful fruition, it is imperative that the leadership team has the downright and comprehensive facts and figures concerning all involved organization stakeholders and other salient situational events and trends directly touching on the organizations competitive advantage. Schoemaker, Krupp and Howland (2012) point out that effective strategic managers’ encompass all of the above factors in their analysis and ensuing strategy formulation in their decision making as to the direction they set the organization in. This is a task that calls for a proactive and visionary leadership approach and the indispensable aptitude to elucidate any foreseeable complications the direction set upon might have.

The second and fundamental strategic leadership activity necessary is coming up with a design for the organization. This is the second interdependent activity that stems from already having set a direction for the organization and selecting the appropriate strategies that lead to the fulfillment of the vision that the leader/s have in mind. Schoemaker, Krupp and Howland (2012) however agree that this is one of the most problematic stages of leadership. The designing of the organization is described as, “A strategic leadership activity of building structures, teams, systems, and organizational processes that facilitate the implementation of the leader’s vision and strategies” (Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner, 2009).

Most of the difficulty at this stage is as a result of some varying reasons. For instance, the managers may not have clearly defined roles. This usually results in lack of accountability among the management team. Another reason for difficulty at this particular stage is the lack of proper remuneration or reward packages for the team or leadership. Lack of adequate motivation towards fulfilling the laid down stipulated organizational goals is the subsequent result of this. Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) also add that improper budgeting and other control mechanisms; derisory systems and integration mechanisms of the new vision into the organization also result in implementation problems.

Effective and successful strategic leaders counter these problems by taking an active and participatory role in coming up with the working mechanisms and selecting the teams necessary for facilitating the implementation process of the set organizational visions, strategies and goals (Thomas, Schermerhorn and Dienhart, 2004). Proper structuring of organizational goals and strategies allows for consistency and smooth transition between the business end, corporate and organizational activities according to Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009).

Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) say that the final activity necessary for effective and strategic management is ensuring the cultivation and nurturing of an exemplary and ethical culture in the organization. This statement refers to ensuring that employees undertake organizational activities and practices in an excellent and competent manner and at the same time, while adhering to the highest possible standards of ethics within the industry. The strategic leader has a pivotal role in developing and implementing this positive change in the organization. They are also responsible for sustaining this kind of attitude in the organizational culture.

Thomas, Schermerhorn and Dienhart (2004) emphasize that while strategic leaders are responsible for developing and maintaining a culture of excellence and high ethical organizational practices, those that fail to do so by engaging in unethical behavior, even personal behavior, risk ruining the peoples’ and industries perception and image of the organization. The leaders’ personal ethical behavior has a great impact on the public perception of the organization. As such, is imperative upon those choosing leaders to ensure that they have conducted a thorough and exhaustive reconnaissance into the prospective leaders’ integrity.

Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) reiterate that responsible leaders and executives ought to hold themselves personally responsible in ensuring the organization achieves this third important strategic management activity. This therefore calls for strategic leaders to repeatedly display to their employees and stakeholders the highest instances of responsible and ethical behavior not only pertaining to organizational duties, but in their personal and private endeavors. The leaders can encourage and reinforce positive organizational attitudes by applying selected elements such as; enacting a code of conduct, procedural policies and even an evaluation and reward scheme within the organization.

Understanding strategic leadership as a strategic management topic is useful for leaders in a number of ways (Erpestad, 2011). It imparts upon the learner the essential skills a leader would require to facilitate the creation of effective mechanisms and systems as well as practical structures within the organization, to ensure the fulfillment of the desired vision, strategies and goals set out for the betterment of the organization.

Most of the world renowned leaders in today’s world also started from somewhere at the bottom. Strategic leadership is a skill that an individual can learn through activities such as formal training, mentoring or apprenticeship. Dess, Lumpkin and Eisner (2009) point out that leader in this modern world undergo plenty of organizational challenges and problems. Some of these problems are beyond any academic and scholarly scope when it comes to finding a solution for effectively solving them in an organizational setting. As an effective leader and strategic manager, implementing the necessary leadership calls for application of three fundamental concepts.

Thomas, Schermerhorn and Dienhart (2004) state that implementation of strategic leadership calls for a leader to utilize the concept of integrative thinking. This is a thinking process where instead of rejecting one idea in favor of another, a leader uses the available thoughts together and comes up with creative solutions and brand new sustainable alternative options to handle organizational hiccups. Integrative thinking is a crucial skill for leaders who need to implement strategic management, unlike conventional thinking which just calls for elimination of the less favorable option.

The second requirement for a leader to implement strategic leadership according to Thomas, Schermerhorn and Dienhart is by having an open minded attitude that allows them to overcome leadership and organizational barriers to change (2004). Organizations on whatever scale are bound to encounter change. A strategic leader has the skill to apply knowledge from various aspects of life, including personal experience, and find a way to ensure the organization adapts to the changing circumstances and moves on. Failure to adapt to market or industry changes mean that he organization loses its competitive advantage.

Thomas, Schermerhorn and Dienhart (2004), however, emphasize the importance of effective use of power by a leader in implementing strategic leadership to their organization. This is the third and most important element necessary to implement strategic management of an organization by an effective leader. There are two bases of power; organizational bases and personal bases of power. These allow effective leaders to influence employees and stakeholders on the course of action to take. They give the leader power to implement strategic management.

In my personal case as an assistant, the concept of strategic leadership can be incorporated into my employers’ organization by the management giving some leeway to the assisting personnel within the organization to come up with some probable solutions to organizational problems. Given that assistant carry out more of the hands-on tasks, they are in a more practical position to come up with solutions, albeit there is necessary supervision and guidance from the management on implementation of the proposed solutions. Strategic leadership is necessary for advancement of the organization and achieving goals on every level of the organization.


Dess, G. G., Lumpkin, G. T., & Eisner, A. B. (2009) Strategic Management: Creating Competitive Advantage, 6thEdition. McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Erpestad, M. (2011). Rethinking Leadership.

Schoemaker, P. J., Krupp, S., & Howland, S. (2012). Strategic leadership: the essential skills. Harvard business review, 91(1-2), 131-4.

Thomas, T., Schermerhorn, J. R., & Dienhart, J. W. (2004). Strategic leadership of ethical behavior in business. Academy of Management Executive.

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