Are You a Strategic Thinker?

As a leader, you tend to deal with what’s right in front of you, so you can get on with the next problem, project or plan. But recent studies reveal that the strategic leader –  who’s creative, has a vision and is an excellent communicator of that vision– is the most highly sought-after and effective executive.

Strategic thinking is a fresh take on a market trend or a capacity to visualize new answers to age-old problems in your industry. “Strategic thinking is about observation and contemplation,” says Vicki Ho, Director, Accounting and Business Services at World Bank Group.

Traits of Great Strategic Thinkers

Flickr photo by Dell Inc.

Adaptive strategic leaders – the kind that thrive in today’s corporate environment – have learned to do certain things well. You are a strategic thinker if you….

Anticipate what’s next:  You search for ways your industry is changing and look to outside resources for game-changing information.

Challenge the status quo: You’re always questioning the way your company does business and will strive to get to the bottom of things, never taking the accepted answer for why things happen.

Interpret new information: When there’s a market upheaval, you hold steady, analyzing data from various sources before developing a game plan.

Take risks: You accept that taking risk is nothing more than part of doing business.

How to Become a Better Big Picture Thinker? Get the Details…

To become the visionary leader and the strategic thinker your company needs, here’s how to incorporate strategic thinking skills into your daily activities:

Constantly question your own opinions. Seek out information that’s the polar opposite of  your point of view. This will give you a more complete view of any situation.

Embrace diversity. People with diverse areas of expertise will complement your own and improve your strategic thinking. Add people of different backgrounds and different personality types to your team to help round perspectives, suggests Hala Moddelmog, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Be a better interpreter. Your first interpretation of a business problem may not be the right one. For example, your competitor drops prices and your knee-jerk reaction may be to follow suit to hold market share. But try to delve into what’s behind that drop in prices. Look for at new data about any issue you encounter – from the internet, customers, suppliers, colleagues, etc. Spend some time to look for patterns, then make an informed decision.

Expand your view. Look at information sources others may ignore. Beyond the usual trade journals and newsletters that everyone reads, strategic thinkers are always searching new sources, including social media, to gain insights on a market sooner. One woman executive dedicates 30 minutes each morning, before her kids get up, to reading posts from thought leaders on Twitter to see what trends are on the horizon. She gives her a head start on thinking how she’ll implement any changes before she gets to the office.

Once you get in the habit of stepping back from a situation to see the big picture – beyond your own company and maybe even your own industry, you’ll start making the shift from being a good leader to an exceptional one.