The importance of leadership when executing strategy

3 min readMar 6, 2021


The issues related to leadership have been addressed by many researchers and authors. Some of them have highlighted the successful impact of top management and leadership on strategy implementation. They have also emphasized that executor or people issues are crucial for implementing strategy.

The roles of middle management and supervisors should not be disregarded since they are also crucial for the success of strategy execution. One objective of communication is to reach a consensus as part of the strategic planning or formulation of the top management level. Even if many studies have concentrated on consensus at top managerial levels, all levels of management need to be considered when looking at consensus.

In this article, I highlight my key findings by outlining the importance of leadership to guarantee a successful strategy execution.

I would like to start by noting that an organisation’s management teams or leaders can be categorised into three types: top team or management (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, and CIO), middle management (e.g., head of departments and directors), lower management (e.g., team leaders, supervisors).

When analysing the Strategic Management Process Model, my research has shown that the development of analytical models such as the Boston Consulting Group Matrix (BCG) and the Personal Information Management System (PIMS) emphasised the fact that the strategy function was exclusive to top managers. However, further research has exhibited that this has consequently caused a misalignment between top and middle management. For example, Floyd & Woolbridge (1992a) identified a gap between the strategy implementation perceived by the top team and the lack of information and communication received at lower managerial levels (e.g., supervisors and team leaders). According to them, top, middle managerial and supervisory levels, and employees should all be involved during the strategy implementation process, and all should agree on and commit to the strategy implementation objectives. They stated that “This gulf between strategy conceived by top management and awareness at lower levels has been called the ‘implementation gap’” (Floyd & Woolbridge, 1992a: p.27).

The distinctive characteristic of an unhealthy corporate culture can be identified in the presence of counterproductive cultural traits, hostility to change that may adversely impact the programme, the work climate and ultimately the outcome of an organisation’s strategy execution (including causing its failure).

Herecleous (2000) stated that if middle senior managers believed that the strategy was not good enough or did not think that they had resources with the right skills to implement the strategy, then there was a strong possibility that the implementation could be sabotaged. He also pointed out that groups could be found within the organisation that may disagree with the strategy, and thus could sabotage the execution of the strategy by either deliberate actions or inactions.

Nutt (1987) referred to the management of the strategy implementation process as a ‘champion’, i.e., a leading role within an organisation which could be performed by a senior manager or leader who could efficiently lead the strategic planning process. He also stated that, if fewer senior managers and staff did not share the same strategic information, then this could cause serious issues when implementing strategy, since consensus regarding that information may never happen. This is why it is important that all employees (managers and non-management personnel) are all well informed of the implementation of the strategy. Noble (1999b) also referred to this problem of shared information. If managers or employees were not delivered the same expertise or information, then they could create problems by impeding the success of strategy implementation.

Given the importance of the strategy execution, projects tend to come from an executive level within clients’ organisations. They are often chief executives.

Therefore, strategy execution projects should be sponsored by top management within the organisation. This has its advantages since successful delivery of strategy execution projects in these areas relies on active support from the top. It also operational changes must be backed up by different layers of management and/or people.

Clear and senior sponsorship is a critical success factor. But it is not only about passive sponsorship — the success of the execution of strategy execution also relies on direct input being present throughout the project.




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