The SMS Strategy Leadership Impact Award (formerly called the SMS Lifetime Achievement Award) is intended to honor the highest level of achievement in strategic management by a business leader.

  • The honoree must have demonstrated sustained strategic leadership and innovation that significantly altered strategy practice.  In this regard, “sustained” means across business cycles, in a period generally longer than a decade.
  • The honoree’s leadership and innovation must be such that it significantly impacts strategy practice in industries beyond the home industry of the honoree, and is the subject of academic attention in major business schools.

This award is tied in several ways to the SMS Annual Conference. The selection committee for the Strategy Leadership Impact is made up of the Annual Conference Program Chairs and the SMS Awards & Honors Committee. Additionally, the honoree is invited to the Annual Conference, where they will be presented with the award and give a lecture discussing their achievements in strategy. This award is only presented when an appropriate honoree is nominated.

SMS Strategy Leadership Impact 2023 Recipient:

Susan Black

Dr. Susan Black has more than two decades of experience leading successful organizational transformation across a broad spectrum of sectors and industries. She has worked at the C-suite level in insurance, retail, banking, for-profit, non-profit, publicly traded and family-owned enterprises. Whatever the business situation, be it a startup, a turnaround, a realignment or driving to sustain success, at the core of Dr. Black’s approach has been a devotion to disciplined strategic planning and correspondingly, a formidable focus on strategy execution.  The business world is replete with tales of organizations whose strategies have failed, not because they are ill-conceived, but because they fail in execution.  Dr. Black subscribes to the belief that a critical element in effective execution is ensuring that all employees are aware of the strategy, understand the strategy and are committed to playing a role in its successful execution.

Catalyst, founded in NY in the early 1960s, is a leading research and advisory non-profit dedicated to advancing women in business. Dr. Black joined Catalyst’s executive team in 2000 and quickly established Catalyst Canada as the preeminent resource for Canadian organizations seeking to better recruit, develop and retain women in management. She significantly grew membership and became a recognized expert on diversity issues, with national TV and radio appearances, and as a sought-after speaker on a wide variety of topics. Underlying all of Catalyst Canada’s research and advisory work was the belief that organizations that made progress in becoming more inclusive did so by embracing a classic strategic planning approach, always linked back to their overall business strategy.

Dr. Black held dual roles at Intact (Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer). She was in charge of Human Resources for her entire tenure, and in addition, led their strategic planning process as the SVP, Strategic Planning for approximately half of her tenure.

Dr. Black began her tenure leading Holt Renfrew’s HR function by creating an HR Strategy to guide the department’s efforts. Dr. Black ensured broad buy-in from the HR staff to this first-ever HR strategy by hosting an all HR-staff strategic planning off-site, engaging them in teams to construct action plans for the strategy and requiring them to have 1-2 strategy related goals. Similarly, she and her team gathered input and validated the strategy with business line owners and regularly reported on its progress. Two highlights resulting from executing the strategy were the establishment of the company’s first Talent Management Centre of Expertise and the implementation of a Continuous Listening program for all 3,000 employees.

Dr. Black joined the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) in 2018 with a clear mandate for change. The CBoC, long regarded as Canada’s foremost independent organization for applied research, had lost its focus, and was facing significant financial challenges. Dr. Black’s first order of business was to lead an innovative nine-month strategic planning process (arguably the most comprehensive in the organization’s history) that culminated in Strategy 2022 – A Transformation.  She deployed a wide array of approaches to ensure that strategy was deeply grounded, realistic and achievable and would serve as a rallying cry for employee commitment. Using the Strategy 2022 blueprint, Dr. Black realigned the organization’s focus to a handful of key policy domains, exited money-losing lines of business, implemented additional research-quality control processes, centralized back-office operations and elevated talent. It is worth noting that without the work done to develop Strategy 2022, and the strategic discipline the organization correspondingly developed, navigating COVID successfully would have been much more difficult. Today, CBoC has embarked on its next strategy, focused on growth – Northern Lights 2027- and is continuing to implement the communication, monitoring and measuring approaches that proved so successful in Strategy 2022.

Whatever her role, as President and CEO of The Conference Board of Canada, CHRO and SVP of Strategic Planning at Intact Financial, SVP, People at Holt Renfrew, or as President of Catalyst Canada — Dr. Black has dedicated her career to bringing sustainable and meaningful change management to the businesses she has stewarded. She is committed to the highest ethical standards and brings rigor and discipline to decision-making in the development and delivery of multifaceted strategies, with many years of proven effectiveness in setting these businesses on course for success.

Susan Black Headshot
Susan Black, 2023 Winner

Award Past Recipients

Dame Vivian Hunt, 2022

Emmanuel Faber, 2018

John Mendelsohn, 2017

Joe Kaeser, 2016

Adam Aron, 2015

Paul Polman, 2014

Neville Isdell, 2013

Carlos Ghosn, 2012

Romano Prodi, 2011

Herb Kelleher, 2003

Andrew S. Grove, 2001