Skills for Strategic Leadership & Management

Philip Knowles writer, tutor and mentor at Professional Academy

Many people when they become managers think, 'Wow! I've made it. I can relax now.'. We soon find out how wrong they are. A 2023 report from CMI indicated that a massive 82% of UK managers have received no formal management training, and yet they are expected to take on a range of new responsibilities.

What does strategic leadership & management involve?

As a manager it’s our job to look forward, plan for eventualities and keep everything running smoothly while we do that. No one talks about the required skill to achieve all this. We need: 

  • Analytical skills to understand the reams of data that come our way every day 

  • Project management skills to implement our plans for change 

  • Sales & marketing skills (even if we’re not in those disciplines) to gain acceptance for those plans 

  • Financial skills to understand the implications of the decisions we make 

  • Risk management skills to make sure none of the day-to-day issues we encounter will threaten the future of the business. 

Strategic means flexible:

In March 2020, managers in the UK suddenly found that their whole business models changed overnight. Staff were working at home; IT systems were stretched to the limit, and we had challenges to cope with that no one had ever thought about. 

Some businesses reacted well. For example, the Creation Theatre in Oxford held a sell-out Zoom performance on The Tempest in the early days of lockdown. And many restaurants moved to a takeaway model to survive. 

Most likely, the businesses which did well had managers who were flexible and prepared to think ‘out of the box.’ Inflexible businesses would try to carry on regardless. 

How do we get ‘flexibility’?

Is flexibility an innate trait or can we learn it? Perhaps the key question is ‘What’s flexibility?’ In my opinion flexibility comes from learning. If you only do what you’ve done before you’ll probably get the same results. Learning shows you different ways of doing things. Learning enables you to assess different options. Learning helps you to decide what’s best for your business.

You can learn in different ways – you can read books, you can scour websites and you can do courses. You’d expect me to say that doing a course is the best way – and you’d be right – but to be honest, it depends on what you need to learn. A ‘quick fix’ may be all you need, in which case reading or looking at websites may be enough. It’s important not to underestimate what a structured learning course gives you though. It gives you opportunities to check and validate your knowledge, The ability to bounce your ideas off other people. It also gives you an opportunity to research and report on real issues in your business and to produce innovative solutions for them. Those insights into other aspects of your business are opportunities for you to grow in confidence in your skills and abilities.

Who wouldn’t want to be the best leader they can be? 

Find out more about Professional Academy’s newly launched ILM Level 7 Award in Strategic Leadership & Management