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Strategic Leadership

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Strategic Leadership

How to Think and Plan Strategically and Provide Direction (The John Adair Leadership Library)

Kogan Page,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn from the greats: See what Xenophon, Lao-Tzu and Field Marshal Montgomery can teach you about leadership.”

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • For Beginners
  • Inspiring


John Adair is a pivotal expert on “strategic leadership” – a term he says he introduced in the 1970s – and he has written some 50 books on the topic. Employing ancient Greek history as his touchstone, Adair presents invaluable information, sharp insights, wonderful quotes and fascinating anecdotes about the history and techniques of strategic leadership in this exceptionally literate treatise. Adair uses clear, simple sentences to get his points across, creating a blueprint to help anyone become an effective strategic leader. Unlike many authors, his efficient, authoritarian – but never hectoring – style conveys every point he makes about leadership. Just as he suggests, a good leader never draws attention to his or her leadership methods. Adair’s elegant merging of form and function makes this a necessary and accessible textbook. getAbstract recommends this solid read to leaders interested in personal development, strategy and ancient history, and to those who simply love great quotes and aphorisms on leadership.


The Ancient Roots of Leadership

Strategic leadership focuses on the future, though it is an ancient concept. Strategy (“strategia in Greek”) originally referred solely to military leadership. Five hundred years before Christ, a strategos was an Athenian army senior commander, the equivalent of a modern-day general. Athenian citizens elected their strategoi, and merit figured heavily in their election.

The Greek philosopher Socrates contemplated the subject of strategic leadership: He believed that as craftsmen learn their skills, so too can people learn to become capable, even exemplary, leaders. Xenophon, who became a strategos of great renown, was a member of Socrates’s inner circle. He wrote about Socrates’s dialogues with his students, including his discussions of leadership.

According to Xenophon, Socrates believed that soldiers would follow leaders who demonstrated competency and knowledge. Xenophon wrote of Socrates’s high standards for any strategos: “He must be resourceful, active, careful, hard and quick-witted; he must be both gentle and brutal, at once straightforward and designing, capable of both caution and ...

About the Author

John Adair has pioneered leadership programs in which more than one million managers have participated. His 50 books include How to Grow Leaders, The Inspirational Leader, John Adair’s 100 Greatest Ideas for Effective Leadership and Management, and Not Bosses, But Leaders.

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    Strive daily to become a better leader is a secret which not climb you up but also makes you a leader acceptable to others.