Strategic thinking and the ability to motivate people are not skills that you can develop overnight. The sooner you start developing these skills, the better leader you will become and the more prepare you will be to make it to the C-suite and succeed in it.
Here are 6 ways in which you can develop/demonstrate these skills
Maintain your Situational Awareness at all times
In the military, if you do not maintain situational awareness in the battlefield at all times, you lose lives, including your own. Thankfully in corporate, nobody will lose their lives over it, however, the consequences can still be catastrophic. The wrong decisions made because of a lack of situational awareness can cost the company millions of dollars or even go into bankruptcy. In the case of a smaller company it can close its doors. As a leader, you must always think about the short-term goals as well as the long-term goals. You must take into account not just your area of responsibility but the organization as a whole. Think about the big picture. This will allow you to see patterns that aren’t obvious to most people, connect information from a variety of sources in creative ways, spot trends and anticipate where they are likely to lead. It is critical that you stay up to date on marketplace trends that are critical to the company’s success in order to anticipate them and respond to them.
Some questions you can ask yourself to help you maintain your situational awareness and see the big picture are the following:
- Who will be affected by what is being considered?
- How will the change affect other aspects of my department and other departments ?
- How will this change other systems or processes that are already in place?
- What is the cost of the plan in terms of other things that can’t be done if we choose to carry it out?
- What are the short, mid, and long term effects of the proposed plan?
- What are the past influences and future implications for everyone involved?
- What expectations or precedents will be set if the plan is carried out?
- What market trends could affect this initiative/project,etc?
It is easy to get distracted by the ever changing flavor of the day. New initiatives seem to pop up every day. It is important to stay focus and say no to the shinning objects that are put in front of you. Steve Jobs said it best, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”
Generate or lead the creation of a new strategy
Part of being a successful leader, before reaching the C-suite, is your ability to implement a strategy. However, that is not enough, as you move up in the organization it is more and more critical for you to be able to create a winning strategy. Volunteer for any special project or committee, even if they are outside of your organization, where you can be in charge of creating a new strategy or where you can learn from top leadership how to create a winning strategy.
Develop your communication skills
As you move up to the top leadership positions, it is less about motivating people at the individual level and more about motivating a large group of people at every level of the organization. The best way to do so is by becoming a great communicator. While writing skills are important, speaking skills are even more important. As a leader, you must convey the vision to everyone in the organization, and motivate them to be part of it. If you fail to convince others of your vision, the strategy will fail to be implemented throughout the organization. Join a Toastmasters Club near you or get coached in public speaking. The investment you make now, in your communication skills, will pay off no matter where life takes you.
Devote time for strategic thinking
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn wrote a great article titled “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing”, where he addressed the importance of leaving time in your schedule every day to reflect on the events that took place earlier (especially after very important meetings).
Oftentimes we are so busy with the day-to-day that we do not make time for strategic thinking even though it is necessary for the creation of a winning strategy.
By the way, strategic thinking does not have to be done by you alone, schedule time with your team to have strategic thinking sessions.
Be seen as a strategic thinker
What good is it to be a strategic thinker in your organization if nobody knows you are one? Ensure you share your ideas with others at the appropriate times and in a clear and concise manner (again you can see the importance of developing your communication skills). Before you know it, you will be recognized for your strategic abilities.
Which one of these tips did you find more useful? Share below in the comments
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Horwath, R. (2009). Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Resources, and
taking Smart Action. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Weiner, J. (2013). The Importance of Scheduling Nothing. Retrieved from