Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strategic Leadership Traits

Intellectual openness. Because the scope of strategic leadership is so wide and the range of opinions on strategic issues is so diverse, leaders must be open to different points of view.

Nuance. The problems that occupy the inboxes of strategic leaders involve ambiguity and complexity. If they were unambiguous and simple, they would be solved at lower levels. Strategic leaders must be able to recognize and deal with this ambiguity and complexity and the shades of nuance that they present. This requires effective skills in managing cognitive dissonance, for evidence and argumentation usually send conflicting signals.

Intellectual agility. Strategic leaders do not have single-issue inboxes nor do they fully control their agendas. Strategic leaders must be able to transition with little or no warning, and at times turn on a dime, from one problem to another.

Integration. The problems confronting strategic leaders are rarely unidimensional. Almost by definition, strategic problems are multidimensional, involving military, political, economic, cultural, social, religious, and historical factors and forces that are often difficult to disentangle from each other.

Teamwork. Government operations on the strategic level require teamwork. Strategic leaders must build an effective team within their own agencies that includes career officials (both civilian and military) and political appointees.

Ethics. Ethics is always important, but especially given the challenges that the Nation confronts today. Strategic leaders must personally set and periodically recalibrate their own moral compasses. Doing so begins with one’s own moral values and principles, those inherited from family (and, for many, from religion) and nurtured in school. Professionals are guided by an ethos that defines and regulates their profession—military, public service, the law.

On Strategic Leadership
Joint Forces Quarterly

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