In December 2001, the Chief of Staff of the Army tasked the Army War College to produce a report which identified Strategic Leader Competencies for the post 9/11 Army. Dr. Leonard Wong and four U.S. Army War College students prepared a report under the direction of the Director of the Strategic Studies Institute. That report produced a list of six meta-competencies.3 Although the title of that report and the materials presented here have a similar name, that report dealt with soldiers operating in a strategic environment, where tactical and operational level decisions can have strategic ramifications. This paper addresses more broad-based attributes, which in some instances are complementary to several characteristics described in the Chief of Staff of the Army's report, but this paper will be more focused on strategic leaders at the strategic level. The strategic leaders discussed here are those who deal with resourcing, policy, structure, and a host of other strategic issues.
Strategic leadership is about cause and effect on a grand scale, especially in a fluid and unpredictable environment. This concept has been discussed in numerous military and academic publications. A literary review produces hundreds of works on the subject, which address in detail the requirements associated with developing strategic leaders. However, regardless of the source, there seems to be a familiar theme when describing the critical attributes for successful strategic leaders.
Prior to analyzing the characteristics, specifically the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by strategic leaders, this paper will briefly discuss the concept of strategic leadership and later explore those attributes that best characterize the strategic leader. Later recommendations will be provided that can be used to ensure the continued cultivation, utilization and promotion of those that posses the skills necessary to maneuver through this ambiguous environment, currently articulated by words like volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
The U.S. Army Field Manual 22–100 describes several environmental factors strategic leaders encounter. Accordingly it states that strategic leaders are responsible for large organizations, establish structure, allocate resources, and communicate strategic vision, while working in the VUCA environment.4 General Casey also said that strategic leaders “guide the achievement of their organizational vision within a larger enterprise by directing policy and strategy, building consensus, acquiring and allocating resources, influencing organizational culture, and shaping complex and ambiguous external environments. They lead by example to build effective organizations, grow the next generation of leaders, energize subordinates, seek opportunities to advance organizational goals, and balance personal and professional demands.5 There is a tremendous amount information and commentary regarding the...