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Strategic Leadership Competencies

Authored by Dr. Leonard Wong, Dr. Stephen J. Gerras, COL William Kidd, COL Robert Pricone, COL Richard Swengros. | September 2003

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The strategic leadership literature in both the academic and military contexts is replete with long lists of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by strategic leaders of the future. Unfortunately, long comprehensive lists are problematic. At the individual level, it is diffi cult to assess one?s leadership ability when the lists suggest that a strategic leader must ?Be, Know, and Do? just about everything. At the institutional level, the long lists make it diffi cult to focus an institution?s attention and resources on leader development when the desired endstate is so broad. Hence, the task of identifying the competencies of future strategic leaders becomes one of reducing the lists to a few metacompetencies that will prove useful in: a) directing leader development efforts in the process of producing leaders with strategic leader capability, and b) facilitating self-assessment by offi cers of their strategic leader capability. Looking across the existing literature on strategic leadership, the current lists of Army strategic leader competencies, and the future environment of the Objective Force, six metacompetencies can be derived: identity, mental agility, cross-cultural savvy, interpersonal maturity, world-class ,warrior and professional astuteness. These metacompetencies describe the strategic leadership necessary for the future Army.


In both the civilian and military literature, a plethora of material discussing strategic leadership and strategic leader competencies exists. Part of the difficulty encountered by anyone desiring to adjust leader development or education efforts is the broad array of competencies presented in the literature. This report combines what is known about strategic leadership competencies and integrates it with the characteristics of the offi cer corps and the Objective Force environment. The result is a list of six metacompetencies for strategic leadership.

In addition to discussing each metacompetency, some leader development methods were presented for each. Several key points concerning development of strategic leadership competencies should be noted. First, all three of the pillars of leader development?institutional, operational, and self-development?are critical to increasing strategic leader competencies. Too often the development of strategic leaders is left to the institutional arena ? specifi cally the senior service colleges. This report emphasizes that these schools build on strategic leader foundations established as early as in precommissioning and should continue with Capstone and the Army Strategic Leader Course. Also, this report posits that the operational pillar includes the assignment process and the Army culture, not just training that occurs in units. Strategic leadership competencies are not just taught in the schoolhouse or learned through events on the training calendar?they are also taught through developmental assignments and through the everyday experiences of offi cers as they work in the Army culture.