Effective Leadership

Strategic Leadership: The Secret Ingredient to Career Success

Strategic leadership

Discover how to improve your strategic leadership skills by thinking in new and disruptive ways. 

At some point in your career, how many of you have been told, “You must be more strategic”? I’ll bet many of you.

My clients’ come to me perplexed and are often overwhelmed with this ask.

They make statements like “I don’t even know what being strategic looks like”, “When I imagine strategy I believe I must change the world, that seems overwhelming,” “I see strategic leaders as visionary, I’m not that.”

When we think of strategic and visionary leaders – we think of leaders who disrupt the world.

Thought disruptors do, they in fact offer a new paradigm that upends the market.

Great examples include the founders of Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb to name a few.

So outside of major game changers, the real question is what does strategic mean for you?

How can you as a leader be viewed as a strategic thinker?

Photo of a woman holding the globe in her fingertips

First off you need to elevate yourself outside of your specific mandate.

Being tactical and achieving goals equates to an operational focus.

Of course you are rewarded and ranked on KPIs.

Although these are the metrics that partially determine your annual rating, this is tantamount to getting the job done.

Being strategic means you need to rise above your job description.

Here is what you need to do.

1. First off step back and reflect on why you are being asked to engage in specific tasks. How does it connect to the larger vision?

2. Ask the business what are they trying to solve for? Is it market share, how to stay competitive, profit margins, how to improve efficiencies, customer acquisition, new products, customer retention?

3. Invest in building alliances with your peers and business partners so you can have a deeper understanding of what they are trying to solution. Most businesses have a number of priorities. What though is the most pressing? You should be able to answer this question.

4. Go to industry conferences. Emerging trends fuel our thinking. When you meet with industry leaders your own thought process is challenged. This allows you to adopt different perspectives.

5. Don’t hang with cautious leaders, they won’t be receptive to new ideas and do everything to preserve the status quo. Find leaders in your organisation who have a reputation for risk. They have a natural bent to encourage forward thinking.

You do not need to invent a new product or revolutionise the world to be considered a strategic thinker.

There are many evolutionary changes that can generate new revenue streams.

Ask any leader whose team or business partners have done so.

These contributors would be viewed hands down as strategic thinkers.

Do not focus on believing you need to go viral with your strategic proposition.

You don’t need to change the world. Instead think about how you can create a unique contribution that allows your business to be more competitive.

By taking a broad approach you think beyond today. You play the long game.

When you play the long game, it translates into strategic value.

You have it in you to approach today and tomorrow in a different way.

When you alter your frame of reference that is exactly when you become strategic.

About the author

CINDY WAHLER

CINDY WAHLER

A Psychologist and expert in human behavior, Dr. Wahler's former leadership consultancy clients include British Telecom, Toyota, Ralph Lauren, and the Royal Bank of Canada to name a few. Dr. Wahler is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and Chief Executive Officer.

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