This study considers what has changed in strategic leadership during the last century and if we could learn something from the past. These questions are addressed through an historical case analysis of a Finnish pulp and paper industry leader, Gösta Serlachius. The findings show that at the surface level the world of strategic leadership is likely to be transient and contingent, but at the deeper level it seems to be based on much more stable elements. A correct combination of absorptive and adaptive capacities merged with managerial wisdom provided the basis for effective strategic leadership at the beginning of the 20th century in a similar way as today. Indeed, the more things change, the more crucial is the combination of these basic elements matching with the organizational environment. It is concluded that historical studies can add substantially to the future strategic leadership research.