5 Actions Strategic Leaders Take

By John Plifka

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

There are myriad issues impacting our future today, but one can argue that the most significant challenge strategic leaders face is modernizing the organization.

The view of our world presents strategic leaders with a complex and uncertain environment exacerbated by rapidly advancing technologies. Considering this context, strategic leaders are challenged to lead in an era of declining budgets and increasing competition.

As daunting as this may seem, there are ways strategic leaders can ensure that the future of their organizations remains agile and responsive.

5 Strategic Actions

If strategic leaders want to effectively manage complex change, they can follow Ken Blanchard’s five actions strategic leaders take:

1. Provide a vision
2. Ensure members are developed with the right skills
3. Provide incentives
4. Provide resources
5. Present a clear action plan

Blanchard goes on to explain that if any one of these steps is overlooked, the organization will most likely face a number of challenges, such as confusion, anxiety, gradual change, frustration, and false starts.

Overall, most strategic leaders do a relatively effective job of addressing these five areas. However, one area that seems to present the greatest challenge and risk is ensuring members are developed with the right skills.

Blanchard says, “Without the right skills, an organization develops great anxiety and is challenged to change.”

If strategic leaders embrace a full-spectrum developmental strategy focused on critical and adaptive thinking, then organizational anxiety can be mitigated. This provides a better resolution for managing complex change.

Importance of Change

As formidable as an organization’s goals and imperatives for modernization may seem, the tremendous risk exists. If leaders do not provide focus on developing critical and adaptive thinking, organizational anxiety will hamper efforts at every level.


Based on this notion, an organization’s system to train, educate, and develop its members must strongly incorporate methods regarding critical and adaptive thinking.

Failing to strategically leverage critical and adaptive thinking methods within the training and employee development efforts will reduce an organization’s ability to prepare for the future.

Challenge of Change

For skill development to remain relevant, strategic leaders and human capital developers must incorporate methods that deliver a long-term return on investment.

This stream of thought can represent a paradigm shift within many organizations, especially for those that follow traditional developmental programs.

Research on paradigm shifts indicates that members of an established community work from a single paradigm or a set of related issues. Rarely do different communities investigate the same problems.

It is apparent that if the different communities within an organization are not tackling the same issues, it becomes a problem in moving the institution forward in the same direction.

Future of Change

The lack of agreement on the same problem or institutional outcome can be a major struggle for strategic leaders to address. Social scientists tend to defend their choice of a research problem chiefly in terms of the social importance of achieving a solution.

This underscores that it is subjectivity that adds to the confusion and hinders the ability of strategic leaders to best focus the efforts of an organization toward an agreed-upon outcome.


Regardless of how keen a strategic leader’s foresight is based on available data, it is impossible to predict the future. Considering the rapid pace of advancing technology and an unpredictable future, it is incredibly challenging to know for sure if the organizational vision and mission are achieving the right objectives and goals.

This is another reason why adopting a more robust critical and adaptive thinking developmental process is important for strategic leaders to implement.

Support of Change

In order to improve organizational processes, strategic leaders must provide support to change them. The aspect of declining resources and bureaucratic processes make this even more challenging.

Employees that are more comfortable with certainty might thrive under a more standardized work process and possess an “if it is not broken, do not fix it” mentality.

Furthermore, organizations are the way they are because people in authority and longtime employees want it that way. There is a preference for a world that can be predicted, but at the same time, where employees can then wring their hands about it.

In addition, previous practices may have data as evidence to back up claims that the current methods are producing effective results.

Obstacles of Change

On the other hand, there are those that are more independent and may dislike the feeling of being micromanaged and resent feeling forced to do their work in specific ways.

Just as a tried and true practice may be an obstacle to continuous improvement, these types of employees may also be an obstacle by not following the strategic plan. The importance of planning and incorporating adaptive thinking development within an organization’s education system is critical.

Suppose strategic leaders want to modernize their organization. In that case, they must recognize the associated challenges and incorporate an education program that develops the ability to think critically and adaptively and lessen organizational anxiety.

How Can Strategic Leaders Work Through Change?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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John Plifka
John Plifka
John currently works for the U.S. Army as a Senior Strategic Analyst. He is a PhD candidate at Northcentral University, holds an MS in National Security Studies from the US Army War College and an MPA from Troy University.
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