Strategic Leadership: Skills, Principles, and More

Strategic leadership is the use of strategy when managing employees or constituents. It is also the ability to have a strategic vision for an organization and the ability to influence other people within the organization to adopt that vision. Strategic leaders result in members who voluntarily work towards the team’s long and short-term success.

Qualities of a strategic leader

Strategic leaders possess specific traits and qualities that enable them to take a look at the bigger picture, plan for the future, and make objective decisions that benefit the entire organization. Here are some of those characteristics.


Strategic leaders inspire loyalty from their members by setting an example. They are usually loyal to their vision, sticking to it without making exemptions only to make things more convenient or self-serving for them. 


Strategic leaders do not abuse their power and force others to follow their vision. Instead, they use it wisely and fairly, making sure that other people understand their vision so that they can follow it wholeheartedly. Strategic leaders inspire rather than coerce their members to follow their lead.


Strategic leaders are naturally in tune with their constituents’ concerns and needs. They also practice emotional intelligence, acknowledging that their members are people and not mere statistics that they can push and play around with. This level of compassion allows them to take care of others’ needs so that they can perform better.


Overt displays of rage, panic, or being unhinged are not invited in strategic leadership. Since you are expected to make objective decisions, you also need to embody a calm, collective demeanor and self-control at all times. This will allow your members to trust you more, knowing that you are in control.


In order to inspire others, you have to put yourself out there. A strategic leader usually has good social skills.


In relation to having good social skills, you must be able to communicate your thoughts effectively and ethically. It is not enough to say the right words, but also to say them in the right tone and expression so that you can convince and inspire others.


Strategic leaders have their people’s full trust in them. That is because they are reliable to make good decisions or come up with objective solutions if things go awry.


It takes a high degree of self-awareness to be a strategic leader. You should know where you stand, what your skills are, and what weaknesses you have in order to improve yourself and control your reactions and emotions strategically.

Essential skills for strategic leadership

Here are a few essential skills that a strategic leader must possess.


An effective strategic leader can spot foreseeable crises and opportunities for the organization. They need to be a step ahead of situations to develop successful strategies and a far-reaching vision.


Not to snub tradition, but strategic leadership is also about looking to the future by challenging, questioning, and testing current practices. This is to measure whether they are indeed sustainable in the long term for the whole team.


Decisions that strategic leaders make are not only immediate but beneficial for the future as well. Strategic decision-making considers all available information, options, and possibilities, including grey areas and “what-ifs.”


To move forward safely into the future, strategic leaders should possess excellent learning skills. Self-improvement and personal development are essential learnings you should take on if you want to become an excellent strategic leader.

Principles of strategic leadership

Below are six basic principles that you can find in strategic leadership.


Strategic leaders want to spread their vision to the rest of the team. One effective way to do that, and in the process, uncover new strategic leaders in the team, is by delegating responsibility and sharing power. This allows team members to practice decision-making that is appropriate for their level, learn for themselves through cause and effect, and produce a more driven and accountable team.


Information should be free-flowing throughout the team. Since strategic leadership does not have any issues with sharing power and responsibility, free-flowing information can lead to better overall decision-making for the entire team. Members having free access to information also gives them the confidence to challenge the status quo for the betterment of the organization.

Openness to failure

Strategic leadership aims to learn not only from success but also from failure. Fear of failure limits an organization’s growth, and harsh chastisement of failure leads to people doubting themselves all the time, disabling their abilities and movement.

There are a lot of things you can learn from failure. This includes the feelings and stress associated with failure so that you are better equipped to handle failure in the inevitable future.


You do not need to be in a management position to become a leader. The same principle applies to strategic leadership. Throughout an entire organization, there can be a handful of strategic leaders that are outside of the management team. Strategic leaders need to collaborate to learn from each other and help formulate strategies to meet a company’s goals.

Holistic involvement

You may notice with strategic leaders that they do not waste time dwelling on issues or matters that do not fully align with their values. They tend to reach deep into their interests, skills, abilities, experiences, and passions when coming up with ideas. They also tend to expect the same from the people around them.


Related to the characteristic of self-awareness, strategic leaders do a lot of reflection. That means that you don’t just look at an issue and its inherent problems and solutions. You also watch your own thoughts and feelings about what you see with their problems and solutions. Are there any biases? Is your past personal experience clouding your judgment? Are you truly being objective?

Learn more about strategic leadership and how to apply scientific insights in your leadership style with The Science of Leadership.

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