We focus our Functional Leadership Development Programs mainly at the operational and team levels. While the broad principles of functional leadership hold at the strategic level, Board Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of organizations need to refresh their understanding of the basic realities of leadership, and also understand and practise the additional skills and behaviours that are required to operate effectively at this highest level.
John Adair has recently published Effective Strategic Leadership, yet another volume in his Effective Leadership and Management Series, which provides realistic guidance not only to current 'heads' but to those who work in strategic teams who might have the potential to head their organization in the future. As visiting professor in Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter and an international consultant to a wide variety of organizations in business, government, the voluntary sector, education and health, Professor Adair is eminently qualified to write on leadership at the strategic level.
In Part One of the book, Adair, an historian by discipline, draws on his knowledge of Greek, Roman and British history to trace the origins of strategy, review the qualities and situational approaches to the understanding of leadership, and restate his own Three Circles of Interrelated Needs Model which we have found, when linked with experiential learning methodology,to be the most effective way to help people develop their skills in this complicated and challenging endeavour. He concludes this section with an analysis of the role of the strategic leader and a list of the Functions of Strategic Leadership, and makes the key point that \"strategic leadership differs (from operational and team leadership) not in kind but in magnitude of issues and scale of complexity encountered.\"
Part Two provides extensive guidance for strategic leaders and members of strategic teams. Its Chapters deal with the challenges of 'The First Hundred Days', 'Building the Top Team', 'Getting the Strategy Right', 'Changing the Organisational Culture' and 'Finding Time for Individuals'. Sound lessons abound in the narrative and in the many case studies and quotations 'strategically' placed throughout. As is his usual practice, Adair concludes each chapter with a summary of key points. These are an invaluable aid to the reader as they draw together the many threads of the author's thinking - a task which in some areas I found taxed my powers of concentration.
Part Three examines the spiritual and inspirational dimension of leadership and here Adair lessens his emphasis on his previously espoused practical, functional approach. He describes strategy development as an art and focuses on leader behaviour and principles of conduct, including preparedness to trust others, 'loving' all, acting with integrity, being courteous, and being generous. Advice is given on inspiration, sources of inner conviction, inspiring companions, thinking upwards, mentors and sponsors, and Adair concludes with a reminder that The Way Ahead in leadership takes continuous learning, and the book ends with the quote by Sir Francis Drake:
\"There must be a beginning in any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.\"
In summary, the book links Adair's practical functional approach to the more esoteric and creative needs of leaders who operate at the strategic level. While he continues to maintain that leaders even at this level must ensure that task, team and individual needs are met and kept in balance, he provides many interesting and useful insights into the additional skills and personal standards that such leaders must develop if they are to possess the practical wisdom and goodness that contemporary organizations need, and indeed society now increasingly demands.
Effective Strategic Leadership is a very useful reference for students of leadership and is a must for current strategic leaders and those who aspire to replace them.
Published by Pan McMillan, London, 2003. Paperback cost approximately Aust$25.00.