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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Leadership by Design

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #157

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"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." - Warren Bennis

In Bill George's book True North, he wrote, "The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself." In Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis described the process through which leaders understand themselves and ultimately lead themselves. In the Leadership Thoughts Issue #130, I declared, "Who you are is how you lead." This issue is a companion to that article but focuses on creating a personal strategic design for leading.

Many years ago, my friend and colleague Charlie Schwahn and I were facilitating a Strategic Design process for a group of school leaders. During a break, Charlie told me that he and his bride, Genny, had created a strategic design for their life. They envision how they want to spend their lives, where they want to live, what they would do, and create a plan to achieve their goals. Intrigued with the idea, my bride, Sharon, and I engaged in a similar process. Although I encourage you to do something comparable, this issue of Leadership Thoughts outlines the process of creating a strategic design for your leadership life.

The basic framework aligns with an organization or life strategic design with a few modifications. The following diagram presents the framework.

The strategic design starts with identifying your purpose as a leader and why you do what you do. Ask yourself, why do I want to be a leader? If you seek a positional leadership position, honestly reflect on your purpose. Be able to articulate your leadership values and beliefs. Knowing that the mission is what you do as a leader, develop a leadership mission, and be willing to share that mission with others. The vision is what your leadership will look like at its "ideal best."

People, practices, and procedures are ways to implement your leadership strategic design. The execution and success are contingent on how you can grow and adapt to new opportunities and challenges. Creating a strategic framework for guiding oneself toward becoming a successful leader requires incorporating key components such as self-awareness, setting goals, honing skills, and constantly striving for improvement. Here is a comprehensive model to follow:


  • Self-Awareness and Assessment: Take the time to thoroughly evaluate yourself, considering your strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, and personal approach to leadership. Gather feedback from trusted mentors, colleagues, and those you lead to understand your impact as a leader better. Review past experiences and analyze successes and failures for patterns and areas where you can continue to grow.

  • Vision and Goal Setting: As you consider your potential as a leader, defining your long-term vision for success is essential. This should include both personal and professional aspirations. From there, break down the vision into smaller, achievable short-term and long-term goals. Set clear timelines and milestones to track your progress. It is also essential to align your vision with the organization's objectives, if applicable.

  • Strategy Development: Create a well-crafted plan that outlines the necessary steps to reach your objectives. Anticipate potential challenges and create alternative courses of action. Rank tasks according to their significance and time sensitivity and efficiently allocate resources.

  • Reflective Practices: Make sure to set aside a designated period for self-reflection and evaluation. Reflect on your experiences as a leader and take note of any lessons learned. Utilize feedback from others to enhance and perfect your leadership approach continuously.


  • Execution and Adaptation: Be proactive in executing your strategic plan. Consistently track and assess progress, making necessary alterations to stay on course. Embrace setbacks as a chance for self-improvement and be flexible enough to make necessary changes.

  • Role Modeling and Mentorship: Set a positive example by consistently showing integrity, empathy, and taking responsibility for your actions. Act as a mentor to those around you by sharing your expertise and personal experiences. Seek out guidance and support from experienced leaders to help you grow and develop at a faster pace.

  • Continuous Learning and Skill Development: Commit to continuously learning throughout your lifetime by staying informed about changes and advancements in your profession, relevant leadership theories, and proven strategies. Work towards mastering critical leadership skills, including effective communication, emotional intelligence, decision-making, and managing conflict. Pursue personal and professional growth avenues through formal education, reading, attending workshops and seminars, and participating in coaching and mentorship programs.

  • Self-Care and Well-being: Make self-care a priority to maintain overall well-being, including physical, mental, and emotional health. Set boundaries to balance work and personal life effectively. Build resilience to navigate challenges and difficulties successfully.

Take time to recognize and celebrate successes and accomplishments throughout the leadership journey. Acknowledge personal growth and development, reflecting on progress made along the way. Stay humble and be open to feedback, always seeking new opportunities for improvement.

By implementing this strategic design framework, you can effectively guide yourself toward becoming an accomplished leader, constantly growing, and adjusting to the challenges of your positions and surroundings.

Reflection Questions

  1. Which part of this strategic design framework for leadership spoke to you the most?

  2. What difficulties do you foresee in implementing your strategic design, and how do you intend to overcome them?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on this strategic design framework for leadership. Your input and feedback are greatly appreciated as we work towards enhancing and supporting your journey as a leader. (


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