Home > Blog > Strategic Leadership – what’s not to love?
10 January 2022 | Blog
It might be a strange object of affection, but I love strategic leadership because it gets things done. I signed up for working in and with charities because I was unhappy, disturbed and distressed
It might be a strange object of affection, but I love strategic leadership because it gets things done. I signed up for working in and with charities because I was unhappy, disturbed and distressed. I couldn’t bear the suffering and damage I saw, and still can’t. Strategic leadership is a particular way of approaching social, health or environmental problems, and it’s great because it really seems to get results.
But rather than focus on all the rosy attributes, perhaps it’s best to start with what strategic leadership is not.
It’s not usually about deeply committed, experienced people, heads down doing the same thing they’ve done for 30 years. It can’t be. Even if people’s needs haven’t changed, the context often has.
It’s not about Boards and Senior Management Teams hiring in a facilitator for two days to help them play ping pong with their own ideas before they emerge, strategy in hand like a managerial version of Moses on the Mount!
It’s definitely not about 4 columns, 4 pillars, 4 steps or 4 anything else. It doesn’t have to be so simple that even my hound will woof in agreement!
No, strategic leadership is a recognition that strategy is the place where the events of the outside world and a charity’s unique capabilities and resources meet. It’s a definition of the places and the ways in which a charity will act.
Strategic leadership seeks to understand the world outside – not just the static structure of that world, but it’s dynamics: the changing policies, actors and the causal loops which control it. These things explain why a woman experiencing domestic violence stays; why, despite ample knowledge, services for adult survivors of childhood trauma are so thin on the ground; why Britain’s biodiversity has been under such threat and why perfectly good solutions in the past have failed, despite all the best planning.
Strategic leadership draws on the experiences of beneficiaries and stakeholders and mines the expert knowledge of people who enact the charity’s work every single day. It considers options in the context of the charity’s specialisms and resources – actual and potential.
Alchemic and innovative, it’s a type of leadership which shapes both the external world it seeks to change and the structures, systems and behaviours of its staff, the wider organisation and even itself. It never stops. It is constantly enabling teams to master knowledge and to shape human-centred and system-appropriate responses.
Yes, it uses tools and frameworks to design maximum impact but not slavishly, scientifically or mechanically. For what’s the use of an elegant framework on paper if the people who are tasked to deliver it would never actually sign up?
When I work with charities to develop strategy, we don’t always seek simplicity’s straight lines and one word answers. We are actually seeking the truth of the situation and the responses which will ultimately change lives, protect people’s health or safeguard the environment. Teams understand it and support it, not because it’s catchy and simple, but because it’s authentic, because they travelled the journey and created it and because they will keep on creating it.
And that’s exactly why strategic leadership works, and why I love it so much.
Tina Antonio Linkedin