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Do You Have the Skill and the Will to be a Strategic Leader?

When I wrote the book, Strategic Leaders Are Made, Not Born, my intent was to help tactical workers and leaders everywhere add new skills to their strategic leadership toolbox. However, skill is not enough. Strategic leaders also need the will.


When Joanne Soliday and I co-wrote the book, Surviving to Thriving: A Planning Guide for Leaders of Private Colleges and Universities, she decided that the first chapter would be titled “Courageous and Collaborative Leadership,” based on her work with more than 200 college presidents. What she learned is that you can have all the skill in the world, but if you don't have the courage and the will to make the hard decisions, you will fail.


Having the skill means that you know how to put together a plan that works. Having the courage and the will means that you are able to put that plan into action. A year or so ago, I worked with an organization that had an underperforming director in a critical area. I put together a plan for the entire department that was both strategic and expense-neutral. It included changing the director. The president refused to hire a new director. I asked if this person was a respected veteran in the organization. His reply? "No, not only does she do poor work, people find her very difficult to work with." To the great detriment of his organization, the president was simply unwilling to make a change.

Strategic leaders should not arbitrarily make decisions that hurt others. On the contrary, strategic leaders must carefully and collaboratively review all available options and then make the decision that is in the best interest of their organization.


Reflect on a time when you should have made a hard decision but lacked the courage and the will to do so. Why did you do this and what problems did it create? We see examples of this in the #MeToo movement. Why don’t people speak up when they see others being significantly mistreated? Sometimes it is because they are fearful. Sometimes, it is because the people in question are their friends or even relatives. Strategic leadership requires the courage and the will to do what is needed. Look for ways that you can strengthen your courage and will going forward.


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