Strategic Leadership

Strategy is continuously adaptive goal-directed thinking, resource deployment, coordination, and learning for action and successful outcomes in evolving circumstances. It is “the direction and use made of means by chosen ways in order to achieve desired ends” (Gray, C. 2010. The strategy bridge.).

Leadership is the exercise of reciprocal influence which engages people in action for common aims and mutual benefits in evolving circumstances. It is the exercise of influence in relation to a common goal.

Strategic leadership encompasses responsibility for institutional and executive leadership of the enterprise – economic or political – and operational and frontline leadership in the enterprise.

Strategic leadership of the enterprise broadens the idea of strategy from selection, deployment, and evolution of means to realise ends to include attention to choice of ends and their legitimacy. A summary outline of strategic leadership is given in the table below.


Strategic Leadership: Key roles and responsibilities



Institutional Executive Operational Frontline
RESPONSIBILITIES ↓→ Legitimacy Purpose Coordination Delivery
Identity of Enterprise ### ### * *
Diagnosis of Situation ++ ### ++ ++
Purpose of Enterprise ### ### * *
Infrastructure ++ ### ### *
Action ++ ++ ### ###
Benefits ### ### ### ###
Review ### ### ++ ++


Key :  ### primary role responsibility; ++ significant responsibility; * general responsibility


This outline corresponds to the classic account of strategy by Clausewitz (1832, On War). Strategy is the means to policy ends via operations and tactics. Institutional, executive, operational, and frontline leadership roles correspond respectively to policy, strategy, operations, and tactical roles and practices.

More precisely, in terms of leadership roles and practices:

  1. Institutional leadership of the enterprise is governing or board level responsibility for enterprise identity and legitimacy. Achieving and sustaining legitimacy requires the board of an economic enterprise or the legislature of a political enterprise (polity) to get ongoing support and authorisation from the wider community for enterprise purpose, actions and outcomes that are in the interests of the common good. This is the governance responsibility of institutional leadership.
  2. Executive leadership of the enterprise is top level management team or cabinet responsibility for crafting, realising, and evolving strategic purpose – identity, direction, aims, and values of an enterprise and its staff and associates – in relation to competitive position and to constant variation in configurations of external and internal stakeholder interests and aims and associated value chains.
  3. Operational leadership in the enterprise is senior and middle manager responsibility for crafting and evolving within and between enterprise infrastructure – structures, systems, capabilities, and cultures – through which people implement, review, and evolve identity, purpose, and coordinated action and learning for stakeholder benefits in evolving circumstances.
  4. Frontline leadership in the enterprise is frontline manager, team leader, and supervisor responsibility for realising strategic purpose by engaging people in the action and learning through which strategy is implemented and evolved for stakeholder benefits.