6 Qualities of Strategic Leadership
The only sure thing in business is that you will face unprecedented times and an unpredictable environment. Strategic leaders can successfully navigate the unknowns, adapt to the shifting culture, and stand strong despite setbacks. A study of 20,000 executives identifies six characteristics that, when used in tandem, establish a strategic leader who remains flexible yet resolute no matter what comes.
Strategic leaders are skilled at anticipating threats and opportunities for their businesses. Paying attention to consumer trends and market shifts will alert you to inevitable change. These signals may be subtle, but they are out there. Leaders who anticipate change can adapt effortlessly, often moving with the culture rather than being left behind.
To increase your ability to anticipate:
- Talk to your customers, suppliers, and partners to discover their challenges.
- Gauge your competitors’ perspectives on new initiatives or products through market research and business simulations.
- Prepare for the unexpected through scenario planning.
- Examine the actions of a fast-growing competitor.
- Try to understand why you have recently lost customers.
- Attend conferences or events of other industries.
Innovation only comes when you set aside the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. When you challenge the status quo by inviting various ideas and perspectives, you’ll discover fresh solutions to old problems. Strategic leaders challenge their initial assumptions and encourage their teams to offer opposing ideas. Strategic leaders do not shy away from critiques and refuse to problem-solve alone.
To increase your ability to challenge:
- Work to discover the root cause of the problem, rather than the symptoms of the problem.
- Make a list of long-standing assumptions about your business, then ask a diverse group of people if it holds true.
- Host a meeting that encourages debate and open dialogue where conflict and critique are welcome.
- Create a position whose purpose is to play devil’s advocate and question the status quo.
Strategic leaders who challenge the issues at hand will receive conflicting ideas. Now, the task is to interpret every fresh perspective and critique. Strategic thinking means gathering all the information, recognizing patterns, and pushing through ambiguity to expose the solution.
To increase your ability to interpret:
- Practice zooming in on the details and zooming out to see the big picture.
- Look for missing information and create a list of three possible explanations to help you understand the ambiguous information.
- Supplement observation with quantitative analysis.
- Step away from your analysis to encourage an open mind—go for a walk, look at art, exercise, etc.
Inevitably decisions will need to be made, sometimes very quickly. Strategic leaders skilled at absorbing information are constantly challenging the status quo and interpreting a wide range of perspectives, and will be able to make courageous decisions even with limited time. These leaders trust their convictions and intuition to make tough calls backed by a strategic plan.
To increase your ability to decide:
- Reframe “yes/no” decisions by asking your team, “What other options do we have?”
- Separate big decisions into smaller divisions to identify potential consequences.
- Create short-term and long-term projects to help you move forward with a decision.
- Consider pilots or experiments rather than big bets, giving yourself more information before launching into a decision.
Strategic leaders are skilled at creating shared goals and receiving buy-in from their team. Leaders who communicate openly, establish trust, and frequently engage with their colleagues will find their company is aligned with shared values, strategies, and goals.
To increase your ability to align:
- Communicate early and often with your team.
- Identify your key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and pinpoint any hidden agendas or opposing interests.
- Facilitate conversations to expose misunderstanding or opposition.
- Directly approach those who are resistant and address their concerns.
- Create a culture of mutual trust and recognize team members who work to support alignment.
Organizations known for innovation and an ability to thrive--despite mistakes--are led by strategic leaders who learn. These leaders are committed to learning from mistakes rather than hiding them or punishing the ones who made them. When employees or managers are fearful of making a mistake, new projects or strategies will rarely be implemented. Leaders quick to punish those who make a mistake will stifle creativity. Instead, strategic leaders need to establish a culture that addresses missteps head-on to learn from their mistakes and discover a better way to achieve their goals.
To increase your ability to learn:
- Record and communicate the insights learned from big decisions, milestones, and failures.
- Reward those who attempt something new even if the outcome fails.
- Examine the initiatives that are not producing as expected and determine the root cause.
At Trinity Training and Development, we want to support your managers and team leads as they grow into strategic leaders that enhance company culture, collaboration, and ultimately profitability. Contact us today to learn more about our unique training programs.