Strategy is not just reserved for a genre of games or military operations. As a business leader, it is essential to employ multiple elements of becoming a strategic thinker. It will allow you to adopt multiple perspectives, deeply understand the organization’s complex nature, and ultimately turn a more considerable profit margin.
What is strategy?
According to Merriam-Webster, strategy is defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Strategy requires long-term planning and developing an overall goal. Concerning business, strategy involves creating a sustainable and viable plan over a more extended period.
Interestingly, even though Merriam-Webster defines strategy as something to achieve an overall aim, a successful business strategy will consider the macro- and micro-elements of an organization. According to Forbes, statistics show that fewer than 10% of leaders exhibit strategic skills.
In fact, due to the instant gratification nature of a quick sale or meeting short-term sales goals, many business leaders quickly become trapped in what’s called “operational leadership.”
They are successful at maintaining the day-to-day operations and needs of the job. Although this is beneficial when seeking a quick win, it contributes to a lack of focus. Leaders find themselves continuously putting out fires, never stepping back to consider what may be causing the fires in the first place.
What is a strategic thinker?
Without strategy, business leaders are unable to tackle intricate and complex problems with a myriad of causes. And within each cause, its own host of dilemmas and puzzles to solve. So what are leaders to do? How can they become a strategic business leader? To do so, one must examine the characteristics of a strategic thinker.
A strategic thinker is someone that understands the deeper strata of an organization or its components. They do not stop at the surface level; they analyze entire processes and systems, working to understand how each piece fits into another.
“Strategic thinkers are very reflective and mindful of their situation”
Strategic thinkers can develop a clearly defined, communicable vision and subdivide this vision into objectives and measurable action items. To achieve this, strategic thinkers are very reflective. They are unafraid of asking questions to dig deeper. With this barrage of questions, they embark upon research to find the answers. As a result, they are lifelong learners and always open to more information.
How can I become a strategic business leader?
As with any skill, becoming a strategic business requires intentional, mindful practice. The following steps help outline how to develop into becoming a strategic business leader.
Make Better Decisions by Being More Reflective
Operational leadership requires impulsive decision-making. Contrarily, strategic leadership requires asking deep, reflective questions to arrive at a better decision (rather than the first decision).
Strategic thinking requires a deeply rooted understanding of the complex relationship of an organization and its environment. It involves zooming out, taking a broad perspective, and involving other strategic thinkers to provide multiple viewpoints.
An example of a productive, probing question could be, “How does this challenge — or my solution and approach — relate to other challenges elsewhere in the organization?” Strategic thinking requires a great deal of empathy: the ability to view a situation or circumstance through someone else’s perspective.
In being more reflective, strategic business leaders can ask themselves, “In what ways do my experiences and biases limit my view of the situation?” This may be a difficult question for some, but it is necessary to produce the most successful strategy. A strategic business leader is unafraid of being humble, self-aware of their shortcomings, and willing to trust others’ expertise.
Be a Better Leader
Strategic business leaders often prove themselves to be successful leaders. Leadership qualities such as integrity, honesty, and communication are just a few of the ingredients for success. Successful leaders can not only communicate a grand, motivational vision, but they can also fully understand, realize, plan, and execute said vision.
Because of these qualities innate to a successful leader, strategic leaders often advance their careers, thus allowing for bigger challenges, more experiences, and broader perspectives to continue and hone their strategic leadership skills.
Create More Strategic Thinkers
A strategic business leader understands that a healthy organization is much more successful when the whole sum is greater than the total of its individual parts. The strategic business leader is not authoritarian or dictatorial; instead, they are collaborative and curate an environment so that more strategic thinkers can grow and thrive.
By developing a positive culture of curiosity and innovation, a strategic business leader will be able to harness employees’ talents to produce results beyond anything that can be measured in a quarterly or annual report.
Successful strategic leaders make up less than 10% of all business leaders. However, with intentional strategic (pun intended?) planning, you can develop your skills as a strategic thinker and grow your business to sustain beyond day-to-day operations.