Strategic leaders are trusted individuals and highly sought after for their ability to adapt, innovate, and succeed well into the future. To be such a leader, you must possess a certain set of attributes that, when used together, will help you and your team deftly navigate the uncertain business landscape.
Here are the specific, sought-after attributes, along with the steps you’ll need to take, to go from being a good leader to a great one.
The 6 Attributes Possessed by Strategic Leaders
What does it take to lead a business strategically? Strategic thinking is based on a strong understanding of the complex relationship between the organization and the environment in which it operates. This way of thinking requires seeing a broad view, obtaining detailed information, gathering varying perspectives, answering hard questions, and communicating openly.
A strategic leader possesses the following attributes:
1- Anticipates the future by gathering information from a wide network of sources both inside and outside of their industry and function. That information sinks in and churns so that predictions can be made, especially regarding potential competitors’ moves.
2- Challenges a problem from multiple angles in order to understand its root causes. Diverse views are sought out and welcomed.
3- Interprets and tests conclusions by using working hypotheses and maintaining curiosity and an open mind. Rather than reflexively seeing or hearing what is expected, patterns are recognized, ambiguity is worked through, and new insights are discovered.
4- Decides upon the best course of action by balancing short- and long-term issues with their related tradeoffs, risks, and unintended consequences.
5- Aligns tolerance and motivation and pinpoints and addresses conflicting interests.
6- Learns to communicate successes and failures. Shifts direction when needed, even after decisions have already been made.
The Questions to Ask
For each attribute, ask questions that boost your strategic-thinking power:
● What will success look like?
● Will this approach help or hinder the achievement of other goals and objectives?
● How can I navigate realistic challenges without limiting my credibility?
● Why is it important that we succeed in overcoming this specific challenge?
● What information do I need to feel comfortable?
● In what ways are my own experiences and biases limiting my view?
● What is keeping me from finding a solution?
● What contingency plans can I put in place?
● Am I willing to let my vision be shaped by the vision of others?
● Is there someone who can help champion my efforts?
● What would create a better result next time?
● How can I create an environment where unexpected results are not considered failures, but learning opportunities?
The Steps to Take Your Strategic Leadership Development and Training from Good to Great take your strategic leadership to the next level with these steps for each attribute:
To anticipate the future, talk to customers, suppliers, and others. This will help you understand various perspectives, gauge reactions, and predict potential disruptions. Imagine different future conditions and use scenario-planning to prepare.
To face challenges head on, ask “why?” while looking for root causes. Question the status quo and include naysayers early in the decision-making process. Encourage open dialogue and expect (and welcome) constructive conflict.
To interpret conclusions, come up with solid explanations for results. Actively look for missing information. Look at the small details as well as the big picture.
To decide what to do in a more effective manner, look at all the options, pick them apart, and look for unintended consequences. Look for the long-term solution. Consider implementing pilot programs, samples, or experiments instead of grand gestures and schemes.
To align goals and collaborate better, communicate with others early and often. Look for hidden agendas and coalitions. Recognize and reward colleagues who support authentic teamwork.
To learn from mistakes, document what went wrong and broadly communicate the experience so you can gather important insights into what happened and why. Create a culture that values mistakes as learning opportunities.
By asking yourself the hard questions, taking the required steps toward thinking more strategically, and supporting the evolution of your leadership skills, the tension between getting daily tasks done and achieving long-term goals will begin to diminish. When faced with setbacks, you will know how to be flexible, yet also persistent and resolute. These actions will result in the ability to effectively navigate your organization’s landscape and succeed in becoming a premier strategic leader.