A Strategy: A 21st Century Strategic Leader Profile

A Strategy: A 21st Century Strategic Leader Profile

Linda Ellington (Southern New Hampshire University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch090


A starting point in exploring the strategic leader is to examine a 21C leader who will lead organizations through complex, global, competitive and undefined organizations. It may be time in the world's clock to reset the profile of strategic leaders; and if so, what does that look like and why do we care? This chapter is not only a view into the leader's development but the development of their organization across a variety of contexts. The strategic leader's competency to grow determines the organizational capacity to success. And yet, in the leader's quest for growth and success there may be a need to provoke a deeper understanding of their role in the process. The emerging challenges of chaos, complexity and ambiguity may affect the way leaders practice their craft; thus, the exploration into uncovering the need for the change of strategic leading itself.
Chapter Preview


The structure for this chapter was developed through a limited literature search as well as the author’s in-depth knowledge and lived experiences in teaching leadership in corporate and academic settings, and facilitating strategic planning and goal setting processes in business and educational context. In addition, this chapter draws from the writer’s ability to capture the essence of a strategic leader. Readers of this chapter may be asking why explore a 21st C strategic leader; why not maintain what appears to be working. The answer is not simple, but rather important if leaders are to move their organizations forward through ambiguity and fog, which is what currently the landscape is portraying.

The objective of this chapter was to discover whether Pisapia’s research on global strategic leadership, O’Connell’s findings on leadership development and Hazy and Uhl-Bien’s writings on complex leadership could yield a 21st C profile in which one could lead in today’s organizational realities. This premise was to then seize an opportunity to develop one framework from several, which may be easier to translate into not only leading but into the development of strategic leaders.

There are many scholars who research and write about the topic of leadership, literally thousands of written work has been and continues to be published; however, I am fascinated with the four scholars selected for this chapter; the author’s rationale being my curiosity about their specific research into strategic leadership and their style of writing.

Traditional forms of leadership, based in what Bennis (2007) termed the tripod form (leaders, followers, and a common goal they want to achieve) and more recent theories such as transformational and authentic leadership, will need to “advocate fuller and more integrative focus that is multilevel, multi-component, and interdisciplinary and that recognizes that strategic leadership is a function of the leader, the led, and the complexity of the context” (Avolio, 2007, p. 31, as cited in O’Connell, 2014, p. 184). The strategic landscape is strewn with strategic discontinuity, disequilibrium, blurring of boundaries, shifting competition, and the need for reinvention, innovation and knowledge sharing. Thus, the need for strategic leadership has become more complex as organizations, our workplaces, and our global challenges become more interrelated and unpredictable (Drath, 2008; Martin, 2007; Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007, as cited in O’Connell, 2014). In an article written in The Leadership Quarterly, the authors posit that leadership models that have been products of top-down bureaucratic paradigm are eminently effective for an economy focused on physical production but are not well suited for a more knowledge oriented economy (as cited in Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007). Currently and into the future, the overarching framework is knowledge and the conceptual profile or knowledge leading needs not to be complex.

Heifetz (1998) outlines the fact that not all leadership needs to be complex. However, according to Freedman (2006) the landscape has become increasingly complex and leaders re faced with continuous new information to evaluate and re-evaluate with no final analysis (as cited in O’Connell, 2014). Palus and Horth, stated, “Creative leadership makes shared sense of complexity and chaos” (2002, p. 127). In addition, they posit that leaders who lead in the complex and chaotic organization need to be agile of mind light on their feet, and have a sense of humor, because surely, complexity is coming to play with you as the leader (2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flaneur: Traditionally the traits that mark the flâneur are wealth, education, and idleness. He strolls to pass the time that his wealth affords him, treating the people who pass and the objects he sees for his own pleasure. An anonymous face in the multitude, the flâneur is free to probe his surroundings for clues and hints that may go unnoticed by the others.

Leadership: The action of leading a group of people or an organization. A person who guides and directs.

Strategy: A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: