The 2 Leadership Roles of Successful Organizations

Successful organizations today leverage two separate, yet compatible, leadership roles. These two leadership roles coexist as a working partnership and are bound together by the glue of common values, behaviors and objectives that define the organizational culture.

We differentiate these two leadership roles as the “Strategic Leader” and the “Knowledge Leader”.  As an example of the Strategic Leader, think about the profile of a VP of Sales – a leadership role charged with understanding and executing a portion of the broad organizational strategy. Now, think of the Head of a Tax Department as an example of the Knowledge Leader – someone in a leadership role who is recognized as a subject matter expert and supports the organization’s vision, strategy and objectives through the execution of their leadership role of technical expertise. 

Optimally, both leadership roles should exist within an organization. When both distinct roles do exist, they should be structured to coexist for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.  Unfortunately, most organizations do not properly leverage the two leadership roles in a way that is ultimately productive to the achievement of organizational results.

Too often organizations combine the two leadership roles expecting its leaders to be all things to all people – to be both Strategic Leader and Knowledge Leader. When leaders are promoted or moved within an organization to lead a dual function of strategy and subject matter expertise, performance expectations become at odds with what is rational to achieve.  Sometimes referred to as “plug and play” resourcing, this well-intentioned, but rarely effective, use of talent disables the people placed in the leadership role by expecting them to have skills that don’t inherently exist, even if there may be a perception that they do.

The organization subsequently finds itself in a dilemma – how should leadership roles be defined so that leaders focus their competencies to the best result for the organization? Here are 5 elements needed to establish the 2 leadership roles that drive optimal organizational results.  

  1. Link and align both the Strategic Leader and Knowledge Leader roles to the organization’s strategy and culture.
  2. Define clear competencies for both leadership roles.
  3. Establish “rules of engagement” between the two leadership roles.
  4. Create an equitable organizational structure that recognizes and values both distinct and compatible leadership roles.
  5. Develop a recognition and reward practice for both leadership roles that includes promotions and compensation.

At Prism Partners International, we can help you unlock the potential and capacity of your people by defining and aligning leadership roles to your organization’s strategy and culture. The result?  A more effective and productive leadership team, a better performing organization and improved financial returns.

Please contact us to learn how we can help.  We invite you sign-up for our weekly blog posts at  We also ask that you join our LinkedIn group, Strategic Human Capital Alignment Forum, Like Us on Facebook (Prism Partners International) and Follow Us on Twitter (@PrismPartners).