How to Master Strategic Thinking in Leadership
Strategic Thinking is about uncovering all the options and thinking long-term - Pearl Zhu.
In management, the need for strategic thinking is often encouraged. After all, terms such as "strategic planning," "strategy sessions," "strategic thinkers," or "strategic management" are common expressions for most organizations looking to improve productivity among their leadership.
Why is this the case?
In a fast-paced business environment where the outcome is often the only thing that matters, leaders have no option but to use strategic thinking in leadership.
Strategic thinkers enhance leadership effectiveness by thinking outside the box when formulating ideas to address business challenges. This can result in benefits such as improving the market share, ensuring effective team dynamics, and confidently facing the future.
Red bull is an excellent example of how strategic thinking in leadership leads to strategic planning. This ubiquitous energy drink company has leveraged extreme sports to create a feeling of invisibility and high energy.
What is Strategic Thinking in Leadership?
Strategic thinking in leadership is the ability to anticipate and plan for the future rationally. This involves thinking creatively and critically about long-term goals and objectives and the possible scenarios to ensure success in an ever-changing business environment.
Strategic thinking skills in leadership bring respect among employees, customers, and other external stakeholders as it shows that a leader can use the most effective ways in the business.
What are Strategic Thinking Skills in Leadership?
Strategic thinking skills in leadership are a set of skills that enable leaders to think critically for better insights that ensure a team's success. This include:
Analytical skills are soft skills that enable leaders to draw information from a data set by analyzing trends. Analytical skills are crucial for thinking critically as they eliminate assumptions and biases in decision-making.
Some examples of analytical skills for strategic thinking include troubleshooting, problem-solving, brainstorming, forecasting, analyzing data, and research.
Creative and Critical thinking
Creative and critical thinking is the ability to generate new and innovative ideas and approaches to problems and challenges. This enables one to be strategic and see the big picture when solving problems.
Ways of creative and critical thinking include identifying arguments, questioning your sources, and creating your argument.
With the right communication skills, a leader can communicate ideas, goals, and strategies effectively. This ensures that a strategy can be understood by all the stakeholders and their roles in its implementation.
Some examples of communication skills important for critical thinking include active listening, giving & receiving feedback, and openness.
This refers to the ability to identify and solve problems effectively and efficiently. These skill sets are important as they form key tenets in critical thinking that can be used in solving workplace inefficiencies.
Adaptability refers to the ability to respond and adapt to changing business circumstances. Strategic thinking leads to strategic Adaptability, ensuring that leaders respond to arising challenges, identify systems that are no longer feasible, and plan for the unexpected.
Long-term focus refers to the long-term implications of decisions, actions, and planning for the organization's future success.
As a key element of critical thinking, long-term focus enables leaders to prepare for any business eventuality to ensure a successful outcome.
Why Should Leaders Think Strategically?
By thinking strategically, Strategic leaders can:
1. Anticipate and Plan for the Future
Whereas the future is always guaranteed, a business's future is never guaranteed — no matter how successful it might appear. That said, strategic thinking enables business leaders to anticipate and plan for the future rather than simply reacting to immediate challenges and opportunities.
This can help to ensure the short and long-term success of the organization.
2. Learn to Think Creatively and Critically
Strategic thinking involves thinking creatively and critically about short and long-term goals and objectives and developing strategies to achieve them. For leaders or managers, this way of thinking removes emotions and relies on facts in forming concrete decisions.
3. Respond to Change
leaders need to anticipate and respond to change to survive. Strategic thinking enables leaders to continuously assess and re-evaluate the organization's goals and strategies and adjust as needed. This need to respond to change applies to whole companies and business units.
Defunct companies such as Kodak, Blockbuster, and Compaq are good examples of why responding to change is essential.
4. Engage and Inspire Others
Employee engagement is one of the areas that many organizations struggle with. According to a Gallup study, up to 65% of employees in the United States are not engaged. This means that most are not focused or actively involved in their work.
Through Strategic thinking, leaders engage and inspire their team members to work towards a shared vision, promoting inclusive leadership. They can use initiatives such as personal integrity, eliminating favoritism, inspiring high-potential employees within the company, and creating avenues for professional growth through managing up.
This can lead to increased motivation, productivity, and collaboration within the organization.
5. Allocate Resources Effectively
Strategic thinking enables leaders to effectively allocate resources to achieve the organization's goals. This can help ensure that resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
This results in improved efficiency, employee morale, job satisfaction, and accountability.
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How Can Leaders Improve Strategic Thinking Skills?
As a leader, to improve and master strategic thinking skills, do the following:
- Learn about emotional intelligence and why it matters in leadership
- Seek advice from more experienced leaders. As often is the case, experience is the best teacher.
- Learn your weaknesses as a leader, and seek solutions on how you can improve on them
- Challenge stereotypes and challenge beliefs that have no solid foundations
- Learn to analyze scenarios from different perspectives to determine the best course of action.
- Get advice from an executive coach on how best you can improve your strategic thinking skills
- Be proactive and constantly look for a different perspective to compare with your convictions
- Know that this is a journey that takes constant learning and self-development. This will enable you to manage expectations and avoid disappointments during the learning curve.
How Highrise Can Assist
Strategic thinking is not an innate skill. Through personal initiatives, coaching, mentoring, or working with a coach, one will refine their thinking skills and eventually show enhanced thinking in a broad range of fields.
In the workplace, strategic thinking skills mean that different perspectives are incorporated into the decision-making process, ensuring solid resolutions that can help an organization position itself strategically in the market.
At Highrise, we have the right coaching pathway to ensure you become a more strategic thinker. Reach out to us today to start this journey.