What is Strategic Leadership? Developing a Framework for Future Research

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



We attempt to bring clarity to the concept of strategic leadership and guide its development by reviewing and synthesizing the existing management literature on how top managers and board directors influence organizations. We propose a new definition of strategic leadership and offer a framework organized around the essential questions of what strategic leadership is, what strategic leaders do, why they do it, and how they do it. To answer these questions, we organize our review around the eight functions strategic leaders serve, the key attributes of strategic leaders, the theories scholars have used to relate these functions and attributes to outcomes, contextual factors, and the organizational outcomes that strategic leaders affect. We identify how strategic leadership research is concentrated in five streams that rarely interact with each other, and offer suggestions for connecting these streams. Our review provides a big picture of what is known about individuals at the top levels of organizations and highlights the key areas where future investigation is essential.


Available online 17 January 2020. In press, corrected proof.