Financial Data
Updated 30 Sep 2020

9 Roles of strategic leadership you need in your business

Your business can achieve profitable sales growth, increased market share, strategic change, and favourable alliances – if you get a handle on one or more of these nine roles of strategic leadership. 

Nicole Crampton, 15 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

Are you looking to advance your business from an operational to the strategic level?

This is a critical and challenging professional transition to make. Why? Well, not all leaders can make the jump successfully, which is why senior executive churn and turnover is high. Statistics show that four in 10 senior leaders fail within the first 18 months on the job.

So, if you want to prevent this scenario in your business, you need to know the kind of strategic leaders you’re looking for.

One of your chief barriers to success can be making the transition from operational to strategic leadership, because of the absence of insight into the roles that you’ll need your leaders to assume. You’ll need a resource that clearly defines and clarifies the nature of these roles. Your strategic leaders need to know what they must do to perform well in these roles. This can help better-prepare your organisations’ leadership to be successful, and to provide a framework for their development and deployment.

There are nine different types of strategic leadership positions that could assist your venture in achieving strategic growth. But, three-quarters of businesses worldwide aren’t confident in their capability to effectively staff strategic leadership positions over the next five years, according to a DDI survey of Corporate Leadership Council members.

Related: 6 Leadership styles you need to be the ultimate leader

This comprehensive resource will help your business navigate employing the right people for these nine strategic leadership roles, according to this DDI report:

9. The navigator


The navigator is the executive in your business who clearly and quickly works through a complexity of key issues, challenges and opportunities to make progress. They tend to leverage opportunities for your business while also resolving key issues.

Your navigator executive will need to analyse copious amounts of sometimes contradictory information. They should be able to understand why something happened and identify potential courses of action to impact your businesses position. This person needs to know which factors ultimately matter in your company’s overall scheme of things.

Personality traits

Unfortunately, not just anyone can fill this position – as it takes a specific personality type. You can’t have someone in this role who finds dealing with large amounts of data challenging. Here are a few personality identifiers you can look for in your new navigator executive:

  • They tend to identify root causes quickly, while displaying a keen sense of priority, relevance, and significance. The person for this role will be able to integrate information from a variety of sources and recognise trends, associations, and cause-effect relationships.
  • Your navigator can create relevant options for addressing challenges and opportunities, as well as achieving desired outcomes. Find an executive who can translate complex scenarios into simple, yet meaningful explanations that others at multiple levels can grasp.
  • The navigator must provide others with relevant context for their work, as well as overcome personal and organisational biases when looking through the information. You’re looking for a person that doesn’t have a “that’s not the way we do it here” attitude.

8. The strategist

The strategist will offer your business the ability to develop a long-range course of action or set goals to align with your enterprises vision and direction. This role will focus on creating a plan for the future, which means you can’t assign it to someone who lives in the present or the past. This role requires a strategic future focused individual that can capitalise on current opportunities and future trends, while still understanding complex information connected to future events.

This person will need to have a clear idea of what the company’s vision is, because they will be making decisions that drive your business towards its goal.

Personality traits

The person you’re looking for this role will need to be a future focused individual that can still connect the present to the future. You’re not looking for a head-in-the-clouds, dreamer. You’re looking for someone who is goal-driven and will ensure your business achieves the milestones that will help navigate it to the strategic future that you’ve planned.

  • This person will continuously look beyond the current year. They can perceive what drives your business, and utilises financial information to help your company become successful. The strategist is a big-picture person who grasps enterprise-wide issues across boundaries.
  • The person you appoint for this role will need to able to recognise risks and pursue actions that have an acceptable level of risk. While still being able to link the organisation’s vision and values to the business strategy.

Related: What leadership style are you and will it get results?

7. The entrepreneur

Women -entrepreneur

Although you are the entrepreneur, two heads are better than one and you’ll need someone to focus specifically on identifying and exploiting opportunities for new products, services, and markets.

This role relies on someone who is always alert for creative, novel ideas. They’ll need to generate the ideas themselves or take existing opportunities or proposals down a new path. The entrepreneur needs to be able to look at events from a unique perspective and develop ideas that have never been thought of.

Personality traits

The personality type you’re looking for will need to able to take calculated risks to capitalise on emerging trends. This role requires someone who looks beyond the boundaries of your organisation for new growth opportunities whether that is within partnerships, new technologies and applications.

You will also need to rely on this person to turn threats, from competitors, government policies, and new technologies into business opportunities. This takes a very specific personality type, which you’ll need to get spot on or it could cause challenges and obstacles for your business.

6. The mobiliser

This role in your business’ strategic leadership helps to proactively build and align stakeholders, capabilities, and resources for getting things done quickly and achieving complex objectives.

Mobilisers gain the support and resources they need to accomplish goals. These leaders focus on “developing the strategic muscles of their companies, building capabilities, and delivering special projects,” according to a McKinsey report. Additionally, chief strategists in this model focus on ensuring that strategy meetings are truly strategic and meet their objectives.

Leaders in this role, “ask the right questions, scrutinise crucial assumption, and ensure that their companies are learning organisations.”

Personality traits

The person who will be best suited for this position leverages and integrates the capabilities of resources across all levels of the organisation to accomplish complex multiple-level objectives. Your mobiliser will anticipate and diffuse roadblocks to your company’s desired goals.

  • The right person for this leadership position will use necessary and appropriate lobbying techniques to gain support for actions from the decision-makers. They also tend to utilise creative networking approaches to identify contacts who can help in attaining goals.
  • Your mobiliser needs to be the type of person to develop an alternative or contingency plan, along with empowering others to achieve their strategy.

5. The talent advocate

Talent -advocate 

You need this strategic leadership role because these people literally attract, develop and retain talented workers. This helps your business ensure that the personnel with the right skills and motivations to meet company needs are in the right place at the right time.

Your talent advocate will ensure that your organisation has people with the potential to meet both present and future business requirements. This strategic leadership role is less concerned with filing in specific positions than with attracting and retaining talented individuals.

 Personality traits

The person you’re looking for to fill this vital strategic leadership role is the person who relentlessly identifies and secures high potential talent. This is definitely a people person who can see if a person has potential for your business now and in the future.

  • The talent advocate identifies the best people, both internally and externally, gets to know them, and stays in touch with them. The person you’re looking for will link development assignments to current and future needs of the organisation determined by the business strategies. You can rely on this person to increase the preparation of high potential talent by providing developmental opportunities.
  • The role of talent advocate will help your company to minimise barriers to achievements and maximise your teams’ likelihood of success. This person will build and facilitate a culture that embraces development, so you can’t choose someone who is against innovation or improvement.
  • A talent advocate will promote employee retention by analysing and understanding their ‘drivers’. This person will inherently understand what motivates your staff and help them to achieve their goals, thereby keeping them loyal and increasing employee satisfaction. Your business can’t be the best it can be if you don’t have the best people on your team.

Related: 6 Strategic leadership types in business you can learn from 

4. The captivator

The captivator strategic leadership role builds passion and commitment towards a common goal within your business. Captivators build upon an established foundation of trust to instil people with feelings of excitement and belonging. This person is the one who can make your team feel like everything they do is making a difference and that they are important to your company.

This degree of motivation can help your team stay committed and enthusiastic about your business no matter what your finances (or economic landscape) look like. It also increases employee loyalty, and combined with the talent advocate can help to keep your talented employees engaged and fully committed to your business.

This type of strategic business leader transfers the energy of their message in such a compelling way that your team will take ownership of the strategy or visions and are empowered to carry it out. This person will need contagious energy and charisma, to continuously give those around them passion and motivation.

Personality traits

This charismatic person will be able to convey a simple, but vivid picture of your business’ vision and goals.

  • They have the ability to move people to the point where they are no longer just compliance, but are genuinely committed to your company. Your captivator will instil others with a strong sense of belonging as they understand how they will benefit from being a part of your venture.
  • The personality traits of the person you’re looking for, for this role, are that they’ll generate energy and enthusiasm through personal passion and conviction, while keeping your enterprises message alive and ongoing.

3. The global thinker

Global -thinker

This strategic leadership role helps to integrate information from all sources to develop a well-informed, diverse perspective that you can use to optimise your organisations performance. You don’t want someone in this role that’s narrow minded or can’t offer a controversial opinion.

Your global thinker will need to understand and accept international and cultural differences while behaving in a way that accommodates a variety of perspectives. They can also identify differences in individual styles and adapt their approaches accordingly.

Personality traits

This strategic leadership role is vital because it helps you and your business to consider the implications of issues, decisions, and opportunities beyond the boundaries of your own country or culture. This person’s role is to offer you and your company a global perspective when attempting to solve challenges or implement opportunities.

  • This person will need to understand the multitudes of different perspectives and approaches in order to effectively handle cross-cultural challenges or individual differences. The person you appoint to this role needs to have a global mind-set and consider every angle from the perspective of all the cultures involved.
  • A global thinker is someone who can identify opportunities for global leverage when, for example, there is an opportunity to develop research and development strategies from a global point of view or with a specific culture in mind.

2. The change driver

The change driver strategic leadership role can help your business create an environment that embraces change (an environment that makes change happen), even if it is radical and helps others to accept new ideas.

This person will help your business remain innovative and keep its competitive edge. Without them your business could fall behind the creative, innovative curve and become uncompetitive or even redundant.

This role focuses on continuous improvement. Always challenging the status quo and breaking paradigms. Your change driver will need to identify ideas for change and become the force that drives the change home.

Related: 5 Leadership mistakes you probably don’t know you’re making

Personality traits

This person will need to be the type of person that is constantly improving themselves. You can’t expect someone to want to constantly improve your business if they don’t see the merit in it and if it isn’t an inherent part of their personality.

  • A change driver will constantly see possibility for change within your venture. They will recognise the need for change within a department or within the entire company before it becomes a challenge or obstacle that could take the business down.
  • This person doesn’t just recognise the change your organisation needs; they are charismatic and informative enough to sell their ideas for improvement while explaining the benefits to the department and the venture as a whole.
  • To identify this person within your company, find the person who funds and supports the implementation of change, as well as rewards behaviour within the staff that supports change.

1. The enterprise guardian

Your enterprise guardian is the executive that ensures shareholder value through courageous decision-making that supports both interests within a unit or the entire company.

This strategic leadership role needs an individual that rises above; to makes decisions that are beneficial for your enterprise’s shareholders, even if this decision causes challenges to individuals or the organisation as a whole.

This person keeps your shareholders happy, with quick thinking and decisive decision-making.

Personality traits

The person you’re looking for needs to have the following traits to fulfil the strategic leadership position of the enterprise guardian: They need to refuse to trade long-term gains for short-term gains. Your enterprise guardian has the company’s best interests at heart and will guide it to long-term success; even if short-term the business isn’t successful.

This strategic leader possesses the courage to make difficult decisions in times of success. Where others would change strategy to capitalise on a short-term success, they stand firm, and guide the business to even greater long-term success.

An enterprise guardian objectively upholds the interest of the enterprise by putting aside emotions and personal relationships. They don’t show favouritism amongst stakeholders or departments within your venture. This person only has your company’s best interest at heart.

Should your enterprise guardian’s decision lead to challenges or obstacles, they are the type of person to take responsibility for unpopular decisions and its aftermath.

Find your perfect combination

While your strategic leaders can’t engage in all nine roles constantly, they will often be involved in situations that will require more than one role at any given time. Some of the strategic leadership positions will be more relevant to your business compared with others, while some will need to be balanced with others.

These nine roles of strategic leadership address the broader challenges leaders face as they transition from managing more narrowly-focused areas to taking on challenges that impact the entire company. 

The absence of leadership is an important issue facing business today. The effective identification, development and implementation of these nine strategic leadership roles can give your business a competitive advantage.

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About the author

Nicole Crampton

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