The purpose of this report is to explore the published work on strategic leadership in order to develop an inventory of qualities, skills and behaviours that define and explain the concept of strategic leadership. A full review of literature on this topic aims to shed light on this definition.
Having discussed and defined this concept the report will then focus on Bill Gates, former CEO of the Microsoft Corporation, with the aim of answering the following question. Is Bill Gates a Strategic Thinker and Leader?
Throughout history we will recall that in the past, the word "leader" conjured up visions of an almost mythical figure astride a warhorse, slaying dragons or single-handedly rallying troops to achieve victory over superior foes. These leaders projected their authority so that others would follow; they could do any task better than their followers. They achieved success through personal tenacity, brute strength, and physical boldness, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Much of the initial work in leadership theory revolved around the idea of identifying the traits of popular political and military heroes such as Caesar, Wellington, Roosevelt and Churchill. However, the problem with the ‘great man’ approach was that no congruent body of traits could be identified, that much of leadership success was evidently dependent upon the particular situation.
Nevertheless, the tabloid press helps us to think of the corporate leader as the great man. For instance we often read of Bill Gates or Jack Welch as if they were primarily responsible for many years of success at Microsoft and General Electric. Although both were unarguably highly effective chief executives, what is it that drove these men and their companies to their success?
What is Strategic Thinking?
Many theorists say the ability to think strategically is the key to leadership success. While vision and results may be outputs of strategic thinking, the ability to think strategically involves much more. One definition is that of (Liedtka 1998) who stated that strategic thinking is an individual activity, but one that is supported by organizational contexts and dialogue.
Strategic thinking, to some it is about creativity and to others analytical. Mintzberg (1994) referred to it as a synthesizing process that utilizes creativity and intuition, whilst Porter (1987) stated that good strategic planning was a necessary contributor to strategic thinking. Hanford (1995), states that it requires taking a high-level, long-term view that includes reflection about the past as well as creativity regarding the future.
According to Stumpf (1989), strategic thinking involves an interrelated set of skills encompassing; motivating, controlling, planning, delegating and setting objectives. These in turn influence the leaders’ ability to
• Know the business markets
• Manage subunit rivalry
• Find and overcome threats
• Stay on Strategy
• Be an entrepreneurial force
• Accommodate adversity
This supports the definition provided by (Bonn 2004). That strategic thinking is a way of solving problems that combines both rational and convergent approaches with creative and divergent thought processes. We will see later how Gates epitomized Stumpfs theory.
What is Strategic Leadership?
Strategic Leadership is more than just strategy and planning. It’s about handling the human element as well as the task issues and doing so in such a way that engages people instead of alienating them.
People in organisations particularly have a number of basic needs, one of which is some idea of certainty about the future. Effective strategic leaders provide that certainty by having a clear vision and workable strategies for bringing that future into reality.
Vision is a key facet in the ability to think strategically. Research by Collins and Porras (1998)...