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Book Review: The Strategist

Book Review

The Strategist – Be the Leader your Business Needs

Title:  The Strategist – Be the Leader your Business Needs

Author:  Cynthia A. Montgomery (2013).

Format and Publisher:  Paperback – 189 Pages.   First published by Collins Harper Collins Publishers (2012).

Review:  © Wayne Mallinson (30 January 2016) at

The Strategist

What a Lovely Book

The book is well researched academically, and then shaped and polished by seasoned entrepreneurs, owners and presidents who have attended Cynthia Montgomery’s training classes at Harvard.

A quick read made me think that I understood, and would therefore benefit from the material and methods taught in the book.  However I went further, and have so far used the ‘Unattractive to Attractive’ indicators in a market table, based on Porter’s analysis of a competitive landscape, and the ‘Strategy Wheel’.  I’ve used both methods to respectively analyse the relative market prospects of my own company on the one hand, and to craft, integrate and align its business strategy on the other hand.

Working through the Author’s methods provided enormous value to me. 



The Strategist

The book, however, is not even about ‘Strategy’, but rather it is about ‘The Strategist’.  Montgomery emphasises that the CEO must lead and maintain strategic oversight.  It is not wise to outsource your eyes!  Also, strategy – no matter how good – is still rendered useless unless it is followed through by intelligent and relentless execution and necessary adjustments.

The Chapter Titles Give a Taste

The eight chapters give insight into the specific areas addressed by the author:

  • Strategy and Leadership
  • Are you the Strategist?
  • The Myth of the Super-Manager
  • Begin with Purpose
  • Turn Purpose into Reality
  • Own Your Strategy
  • Keep it Vibrant
  • The Essential Strategist

Example Cases

Montgomery uses multiple business cases to illustrate both strategists who fail, and those who move a business in a positive direction.  She often presents a case to her class – and reading the book one feels as if you are in the class on occasions.  After the case she asks for responses.  On more than one occasion my response is with the class majority.  But it’s a trap!  Just when everybody goes direction A, the correct answer is direction B!  After being so committed (and so wrong) it made me much more attentive to the problem and to the reason why we (the class and I) got it wrong.

Strategy and Leadership are inseparable – unless you want a disaster.  One gets a front row seat to these disasters both in the book and often, if one pays attention in a company that’s getting it wrong.  Similarly the ‘miraculous’ turnaround of companies that have lost their way is witnessed first-hand – and the logic of getting it right remains imprinted on one’s brain!

The Process of Strategy

Strategy can’t and should not be undertaken by a few people once a year and then forgotten.  Strategy needs to ever evolve, ever be tuned, as the competitive landscape changes or new opportunities arrive.  A leader out of touch with the market or the rest of the people in the company acts like a failed clutch plate.  To avoid these illnesses, read the book, think deeply about it, and then ‘Be the Leader’ and apply Montgomery’s helpful insights.


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