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The Strategic Leadership Model


Management consultant Bruce Nixon sets out a model for a leadership retreat designed to develop a team strategy for creative change.

This provides a simple, practical process, which you can adapt, for a retreat for leaders to decide how the organisation needs to transform in order to thrive and survive.

If you contract well with the participants and other stakeholders, get the process right, help them build a climate of trust and openness, the results can be remarkable.

The stages of this process are summarised below.

It is best to meet off site.

Arrange the room in a circle of chairs - no barriers like tables - which and can be re-arranged easily; this also implies equal partnership and no hierarchy; the space needs to be large enough to allow different groupings to be formed in the same room (breakouts waste time); a big wall to do work on and display big charts; opportunities for walking or exercise are important.

For really creative and inspiring work to be possible, ground rules need to be agreed, as without trust and safety, not much will be accomplished.

You need to be, or provide, the facilitator whose job is to focus on process and not content as it is near impossible to participate and facilitate.

Global Forces

The group, representing all the key parts of the system or stakeholders, builds a picture of global forces, or outside forces, affecting the organisation.

Together they create a huge wall chart showing the full diversity and complexity of how they see the world as it affects the organisation.

Give out pads of large post-it notes on which people write short phrases describing key trends and then post them on the chart, gradually arranging them into patterns.

In this way everyone quickly gets involved, on their feet, their energy moving.

Current State

Together, the group rigorously reviews how well the organisation is responding to these forces.

Then they identify key issues and opportunities.

It is important to distinguish between corporate issues that affect the whole organisation, and issues that are important to specific parts, and not necessarily others.

Purpose and Values

This is heart and spirit work and needs imaginative processes.

Inspiring core values and purpose are strongly linked with long-term success, more so than watching the bottom line.

Values and purpose are a source of passion and energy.

Corporate statements, handed down to people who have played no part in creating them mean very little.

They must be involved. People also need to see if there is a fit between their own and the organisation’s core purpose and values.

A Vision of the Desired Future

This leads on naturally from core purpose and values.

You need vision of a desirable and probable future of the world and how you want to change it.

Organisations, as well as people, change the World. This must be your vision for the organisation as a whole, your part of it and, most important, your life as a whole.


This may include key corporate strategies for the organisation; and, within a corporate framework, strategies for teams and individuals.

Sometimes identifying a businesses unique positioning, or unique roles may be part of the work.

Your strategy will address the key issues of your organisation and move it from where it is now to where you want it to be, from its present state to the desired state of your vision.

Or it could be what you will do to bring about change in the company as a whole.

If it involves leading people, you need to decide your distinctive and unique leadership role.

You also need to think not in terms of delivering change, but processes for involving people in creating change.

Influencing Strategy

Everyone needs to identify whose help and support they need to implement their strategy; those with whom they need to build relationships or closer relationships.

Key Issues

Identify the key issues getting in the way of moving from where we are to where we need to be.

At this stage I find that using ‘open space’ or a ‘flexible programme’ releases energy.

Simply described, people propose issues of whatever kind they want to work on with other people or ask for help with projects they wish to take responsibility for.

Actions and Support

Planning actions and support is essential.

We often underestimate the need for the latter.

Leading transformation and transforming oneself is not easy; there are bound to be set-backs and a really good support system is vital.

Follow-up and a Continuing Strategy

One event is not enough to bring about transformation and learning.

It needs to be part of a strategy, including a lot of work beforehand, like listening to/talking individually and contracting with all the participants, preparing them, follow-up events in some form, and a continuing strategy to engage the whole system.

This needs to be planned with the stakeholders and emerge appropriately.

Lack of sustained, consistent follow through, with top involvement, is where a lot of change efforts fail and time and money is wasted.

There can be no quick fixes.

To get familiar with this process, first use it yourself with your own team or colleagues. Good luck and go well !

* Bruce Nixon is a veteran management consultant in organisation transformation and learning. He is author of two books Making a Difference - Strategies and Tools for Transforming your Organisation, 2001, and Global Forces - a Guide for Enlightened Leaders - what Companies and Individuals can Do, 2000, both available from Management Books 2000. Bruce can be contacted by email or on 01442 863424.


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