Preparing Strategic Leaders (Part 2)

By | July 25, 2020

[July 25, 2020]  This is a two-part mini-series about preparing strategic leaders.  Yesterday, I noted that there are similarities among senior leaders that should be explored (see link here).  This life-long exploration is something I’ve invested considered time and energy.  This series is a summary of some of my observations and thoughts.

As previously noted, the first pattern we found for developing wisdom in strategic leaders is through combining demanding experiences with a lifetime of intensive self-study.  I used William Manchester’s famous book The Last Lion as a backdrop in discussing British PM Churchill.1

Here are the final two patterns:

Second, while looking into the future is difficult, having a keen insight is nonetheless crucial for strategic leadership.  Strategic leaders must put themselves into the minds of the enemy and look to unexpected events.  This means considerable knowledge of the world, which can only be obtained through practiced experience.  Political genius lies in seeing over the horizon, anticipating a future invisible to others.

Like Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a senior military officer, one who saw, firsthand, the impact of war and the destruction it wrought.  In his book, Eisenhower in War and Peace (2012), Jean Edward Smith tells the story of Eisenhower’s rise to Generalship and the U.S. Presidency.  He documents this canny politician and a skillful, decisive leader who managed not only to keep the peace but also to enhance America’s prestige.

Third, the best strategic leaders maximize the contributions of their subordinates.  They can draw upon the knowledge and skills of their subordinates at the right time and place.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, excelled at this skill as evidence by his proclivity for details and desire for political debate.

In her biography of Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time (1995), author Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of how he communicated with those that worked for him, his ability to talk to them (and make sense) directly, and his elevation of those who could ‘get the job done.’  President Roosevelt was, if anything, a practical president and one that knew the value of trusted subordinates at this side.   He depended upon them and had the uncanny ability to pick the best and brightest.

These three common threads should be studied more thoroughly as we develop senior leaders.  The U.S. military is doing an adequate job at it, but our commercial sector lacks even the most basic understanding of strategic leadership training.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Preparing Strategic Leaders (Part 2)

  1. Ronny Fisher

    Great follow up on your first article. Thanks.

  2. Tomas C. Clooney

    I will hold my hand up for intensive self-study as a way to greatly improve our very own leadership skill sets. Practice, of course, is the primary method because at some point leadership must be put into practice but if you want that little edge over other leaders, self-study will help get you there.

  3. Yusaf from Texas

    I’m no fan of US Pres F. D. Roosevelt. He started the New Deal and we continue to feel the impact of low expectations ever since. It has been particularly hard on the black and hispanic populations. Too bad. If I were a racist, I would recommend the govt improve upon those programs (which is happening BTW) because it would support my racist thinking.

    1. Wilson Cox

      I think you are right on with this posting, Yusaf. It’s a little tough to read but I understand.

      1. Shawn C. Stolarz

        Too many folk these days are frightened about discussing racism unless you are a leftist that blames everything on racism. Oversimplifications are not good. We all need the courage like Yusaf to discuss those things that need discussing.

  4. Eric Coda

    For those that overlooked the authors of these biographies that Gen. Satterfield referenced, go back and look at them. These are some of the best biographies written on these senior, strategic leaders. I’ve read them all and can say without doubt, they lay out a great dialogue on great leadership. It’s there for the taking. Go to any book website and order them now.

  5. Kenny Foster

    We could all argue about these three and which of them is most important, so I will put in my two cents worth. To begin with, no matter how good you are, smart, hardworking, etc., unless you have exceptional subordinates, you will not succeed. Maybe all these depend upon one another but I vote that his #2 is the most important. Subordinates make or break the leader. Just my thinking this early Saturday morning.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Spot on comment Kenney. Hey, hope you are having a great day. While I agree with you completely, I will point out a counter argument that seeing the future is the best and most important trait.

    2. Kenny Foster

      Hi guys, oops, it was #3, not two but still developing subordinates is the best and certainly most important.

      1. Harry B. Donner

        I thought my brain was off a tad but thanks for clearing this up, Kenny. Your comments are always on target for us and I enjoy reading them. ?

  6. Georgie B.

    Gen. Satterfield, great conclusion to this two-part series on preparing strategic leaders. I would humbly suggest a similar topic in the future. This blog post contained some great advice:
    1. Experience and study
    2. ‘Seeing’ the future accurately
    3. Maximize subordinates
    Can’t get much better than this!!!!!

    1. Joe Omerrod

      Of course, this is easy to say but hard to do. It takes time, energy, motivation, focus, and support from others. This is critical for any successful leader.

    2. Randy Goodman

      Good point reinforcing Gen. Satterfield. Maybe we could all suggest topics and see if they get written about. I’ve seen it before. Let’s hope Gen. S is still reading the comments in this forum. Anyone with other ideas? I suggest that he does a few more detailed bios on famous leaders and point out their thinking.

      1. Wendy Holmes

        Gen. Satterfield’s website is the best. Yes, do make recommendations.

      2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

        Randy, of course I read the comments section and, yes, I get great ideas from all of you. Please, make recommendations and I will take a look at them.

  7. Mikka Solarno

    I want to say ‘thank you’ Gen. Satterfield for what you do for our country and for this website dedicated to leaders and those who would study leadership. I love this site. I’ve been on it for a few months and it is the greatest. I’ll nominate the site for best leader blog!

    1. Greg Heyman

      Great, Mikka. We all love this site too.

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