Evolving Trends in Strategic Leadership Research
Updated: Aug 18
I recently came across an article that shed light on the dynamic nature of strategic leadership research. It highlighted the extent to which it keeps adapting to contemporary trends in society and in business and I believe is a valuable reflection of the concerns discussed in boardrooms and implemented across industry. It offers and interesting insight into where businesses find value and how they respond to stakeholder demands. It is fascinating to observe how certain topics that once held prominence have been overshadowed by pressing issues brought about by global pandemics and technology.
The study in question, conducted in 2023, examined over 6,000 research papers published between 1980 and 2023, providing valuable insights into the changing focus of strategic leadership research over the past four decades.
The study yielded several significant findings, which can be summarized as follows:
Expanding research landscape
Over the last four decades, the number of publications on strategic leadership has increased by over 200 times, indicating the growing significance of this field.
Shifting research focus
In the initial period (1981-1990), research primarily revolved around basic management and organizational activities, encompassing topics such as decision-making, information access, and strategic choices. The from 1991-2000, the focus expanded to more complex organizational activities, including board composition, downsizing, and succession planning. Into the third decade (2001-2010) of this study, the emphasis shifted towards leadership and innovation, with the inclusion of topics such as corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. The period from 2011-2020 witnessed a surge in research on empowerment and digital transformation, covering areas like digitalization, female board representation, human and social capital, sustainability, and organizational culture. Finally, in the three years of this current decade, the latest research trends indicate a further shift, with popular topics now revolving around artificial intelligence, supply chain flexibility, crisis management, adaptability, and uncertainty, while still maintaining a focus on innovation and strategic leadership.
Considering the ongoing trajectory of organizational and strategic leadership research, it is intriguing to speculate on the direction it may take in the remainder of this decade. While the future is uncertain, there are several areas that could receive increased attention.
· Embracing technological advancements: As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, research may delve deeper into its implications for strategic leadership, exploring how it can be effectively harnessed to drive organizational success.
· Agility and adaptability: Given the volatile nature of the business landscape, future research may emphasize the importance of organizations being agile and adaptable, capable of swiftly responding to disruptions and uncertainties.
· Crisis management and resilience: With the experience of global pandemics and other crises, there will likely be a growing interest in understanding effective crisis management strategies and building resilience within organizations.
The evolution of strategic leadership research has shown how it adapts to the changing needs of businesses and industries over the past four decades. The current decade has witnessed a shift towards emerging topics like artificial intelligence, supply chain flexibility, crisis management, adaptability, and uncertainty. Looking ahead, we can speculate where research will explore, but we may see technology including AI, organizational agility and resilience and crisis management feature more prominently in strategic leadership practices.
The field of strategic leadership research is likely to remain dynamic, continually evolving to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern business landscape and these topics are likely to also shape the evolving discussion of business advice to companies.
If you would like to discuss how these trends might be affecting your business, please contact me.
Singh, A., Lim, W. M., Jha, S., Kumar, S., & Ciasullo, M. V. (2023). The state of the art of strategic leadership. In The Patterns and Trends of the Last 40 Years of Strategic Leadership. Research Briefing. The Oxford Review. www.oxford-review.com.