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Book Review: Developing Strategic Leadership Skills


Reviewer John Pope finds the concept of strategic leadership "rather vague", yet gives the book top marks for helpfulness - despite it seemingly forcing questions of how "special" this strategy is.

Title: Developing Strategic Leadership Skills
Editor: John Potter and Alan Hooper
Publisher: CIPD
Price: £300
Reviewer: John Pope

This workbook is aimed at trainers, facilitators and coaches aiming to develop the leadership abilities of others. It can also be used for personal study and development.

It concentrates on the rather vague concept of ‘Strategic Leadership’ which the writers explain clearly and which they link with work done by management thinkers. It distinguishes strategic leadership from other aspects of leadership and from other forms. I find this difficult, believing that strategy is the choice of routes to achieve an aim.

It is set out in seven sections:

  • Understanding the concept
  • Understanding yourself
  • Creating direction
  • Leading others
  • Visibility and communication
  • Intelligent objectivity
  • Creating results

Each of the sections is designed to explain, test and develop a ‘core strategic leadership competence’, with a guide to the facilitator, and a series of tools – there are 40 in all. Each tool is designed to ‘audit’ an individual’s level of competence, usually by self-scoring, sometimes in collaboration with colleagues.

Each is then followed by questions to encourage personal development. There are useful suggestions for syndicate exercises and discussions; their value will depend on the skill and leadership experience of the trainer, as well as the nature of the group.

I have a problem with the competencies identified as core. My own observations are that the five characteristics which are common, to a high degree, to outstanding, successful leaders in all walks of life are:

  • Focus on achievement
  • Creation of vision
  • Initiative
  • Drive and energy
  • Common sense, as in applied intelligence

High levels in these compensate for deficiencies in other respects. Consideration for others does not, alas, rate highly.

The authors have based their work in terms of competencies though these are now becoming superseded by approaches based on character and values. As such I think that this book dilutes its message that strategic leadership is somehow special.

"This book dilutes its message that strategic leadership is somehow special."

Nevertheless many will find it useful and practical, when used according to the excellent guidance notes set out in the introduction, and coupled with other forms of development.

Review ratings:

  • Overall 3
  • Helpfulness 5
  • Layout 5
  • Value for money 2
  • Suitability for professional level Consultants, trainers, coaches
  • Would you recommend it? 2 - Buy if you have to ‘sheep dip’ your managers.



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