Strategic Leadership and the Strategic Management Process

The complex changes of the 21st century at the global level determine a steady increase in the competitiveness of organizations, a new managerial organization, requiring the creation and adoption of new measures, attitudes, skills and abilities that would lead to the achievement of the desired objectives. The human factor is essential. The changes, viewed as an interactive, complex and non-linear process, undermine all the traditional assumptions of organizational management. The dominant methods used fail to take into account these subtle aspects. The leadership relationships have to deal with such changes, be conditioned by a firm understanding of the external environment of the organization and a good control of the decisions that the organization can make internally. This paper presents a few reflections on the role of leadership relationships that involve new perspectives and forms of strategic management process


The organizations increasingly need strategic leadership, not only in terms of product evolution, services and market positioning thereof, but also through the evolution of individuals, the development of each individual within the organization.

Peter Drucker said that “the manager exists for the organization. He is its servant. Any manager who forgets this will only cause damage to the organization” [1].

Most likely, the difference between leadership and management exists only in the definition of concepts, and there is a recent tendency to encourage managers to consider themselves leaders.

Managers are believed to be those who get the results, while leaders are those who think strategies in perspective. Of course, we would all like to belong to the second category and then it seems that the role of the manager is diminishing.

The differences arise from the setting of duties within the organization, namely: the manager is the one who must plan, organize, coordinate, while the leader is the one who must think and define the mission of the organization, promote it, set certain standards.

Organizations must deliver learning that helps leaders transform their attitudes, their motivations, and their view of themselves and their roles [2].

In the vision of Gallup International Association, in a healthy organization, these two concepts must co-exist, they are both complementary and dependent at the same time [3]. The management develops the organization's ability to follow strategy by building an organizational structure folded on its specific needs, identifying the issue, reorganizing, spreading and penalizing. When we talk about Leadership, we talk about motivation and inspiration, calling on values, needs and emotions. The convergence of the two forces– the interest of organizations for value, competitiveness and the interest of managers-leaders for the people in their organization – will change its appearance. The vector of these forces will be the best managers and leaders [4].

Strategic Leadership and Managerial Organization

As strategic leaders, top-level managers must guide the firm in ways that result in the formation of a vision and mission. It is through strategic leadership that organizations are able to successfully use the strategic management process [5].

Source: Adapted from [5]

Strategic leaders and “top-level managers” need to develop appropriate strategies and determine how they are implemented, leading to the achievement of the goals of the organization and, implicitly, the achievement of a strategic competitiveness. They have to understand how the decisions made will affect the internal systems currently used within the organization [6].

Effective strategic leaders use vision to motivate employees. They often ask for corrective feedback from colleagues, superiors or employees on the value of the decisions and the difficult vision of the organization. At the same time, they encourage the development of strong internal and external partners to facilitate the performance of their vision.

The crux of strategic leadership is the ability to manage the firm’s operations effectively and sustain high performance over time [7].

The factors that determine the quality of decisions made by the manager are structured as follows: 

Ø External environment: the structure of the market, the degree of differentiation of products and services, the growth rate of products and services on the market;

Ø Characteristics of the organization determined by age, size, resources, culture;

Ø Characteristics of the manager including: commitment and responsibility towards the organization, achievement of the desired results, teamwork skills, high aspirations, tolerance of ambiguity.

As strategic leaders, managers will be successful when they become qualified, sometimes forcefully, in practicing these basic elements of vision, strategy, operations and tactics [9].

Principles for Leadership Development within Organizations

Strategic leaders must learn how to deal with diverse and complex competitive situations. Individual judgment is an important part of learning about and analyzing the organization’s external conditions[10].

Research shows that leadership relationships are learned and perfected through experience. The Leadership abilities carried out in the organization are subtle, complex and pursue [11]: the ability to anticipate; the ability to change; the ability to find the solution; the ability to interpret, the power to decide, the force to learn.

Top organizations take the development of leadership as a strategic priority, striving to accelerate this process of development and maturation of managers. In this regard, the question arises: What are the best ways to help managers learn, acquire new knowledge and thus help the organization?

To help organizations consistently achieve these outcomes, Harvard Business Review has identified six critical learning design principles we employ when designing for leadership development. 

Such principles are the basis of a cyclical learning-practice-reflection process [2].

· Learning in Context

In the context of the organization’s strategy, organizational culture and applied values provide an important approach with a major impact on business growth. The implementation of learning programs within organizations is relevant and creates the premises for the development of new competencies. The acquired abilities will be used together with other related leadership skills [12]. Sample Practice: Bring real-world relevance by featuring your organization´s experts, stories, and cases.

· Learning by Doing & Reflecting

Leadership relationships are relationships that are learned through experience. This has led to a strong emphasis of learning through practice. Many times managers do not process the lessons learned from experience in organizations, actions that may not be applied at all times and in any context. Thus, reflection after each action is important. Sample Practice: Make experiential activities core to the learning experience.

· Learning by Teaching

Many managers still believe that the development of leadership relationships is the responsibility of the human resources department or of those holding the ownership right. In the current context of complex changes, it has become necessary for managers to take responsibility for developing leadership relationships and creating a learning culture within the organization. Sample Practice: Provide opportunities to learn by teaching others.

· Learning through Engagement

Nobody can force anyone to study and develop themselves as managers. The development and improvement of a manager must be undertaken and fully accounted for by each individual. Research shows that learning in a hostile environment involves cognitive and emotional issues. Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a cognitive neuroscientist at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute, explains: “One thing that biology has been showing us now for many years is that emotions, learning, and memory are intimately tied together.”[2].

· Learning Over Time

Developing Leadership is not a simple and singular action. It requires a continuous process that takes place through a variety of experiences, actions, relationships, observations or reflections. The manager cannot experience these processes alone, through formal learning. He needs moments and time to review, re-evaluate, review and rethink them [13]. The process of learning over time has the advantage of retaining the acquired information over a longer period. Sample Practice: Include application planning and goal setting within organization.

· Learning with Others

The learning process is a social activity that demands time and space to exchange ideas, experiences and observations. The continuous changes that take place around us require original solutions. The accumulation of knowledge gained from as many fields of activity as possible creates great advantages in how to manage and solve the objectives proposed in the organization. Sample Practice: Involve senior managers in the program to speak to importance and business relevance.

Both managers and their direct reports practiced skills in this area, such as delivering feedback and managing performance [14].


A critical element of strategic leadership and the effective implementation of strategy is the ability to manage the firm’s resource portfolio. This includes integrating resources to create capabilities and leveraging those capabilities through strategies to build competitive advantages.

As strategic leaders, the top managers have to accumulate a series of knowledge from as many fields of activity as possible, be aware of external or internal events that can influence the smooth running of the organization they lead. It is obvious that a multitude of factors contribute to making accurate, clear and consistent decisions.

The learning process, the ability to gain knowledge through its many forms and methods, becomes a constant and necessary process throughout life, contributing to the personal development of strategic leaders and the improvement of the leadership process within each organization.

The manager's influence becomes essential in taking action to meet the challenges of maintaining the organizations in the market by introducing new models and working relationships in line with the new knowledge, techniques and technologies. Of course, there is also a morality of behavior.

The ethics of leadership implies the need to achieve the highest level of integrity for managers [15], a guarantee of success in the organization they lead.

The importance of leadership also derives from the fact that you need to have the perfect combination of skills and experiences acquired over time, on which the managers have to rely.


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[12] Tavares, R. A.C., Costa N., De A, C. (2016). Habilidades e Competencias do Lider na Gestao Contemporanea, Revista de Administracao Geral. V.1, n.2, pp.84-100.

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