Strategic Thinking Skills

Have you ever tried to complete a task that doesn’t turn out quite how you planned? Did you realize that maybe you just didn’t have the proper skills or use the correct tool for the job?

This situation can happen in business as well. A leader in management may have great intentions but may not possess the skills and tools they need to anticipate and manage challenges or realize successful outcomes.

Having the proper leadership tools in your toolbox allows you to accomplish your goals. We’ve compiled a list of 11 leadership tools and strategic skills every leader should have to effectively handle any situation that may arise.

What Tools and Skills Does a Team Leader Need?

Being a leader is challenging; getting the most out of your team takes time, effort, and charisma. To inspire your team to do their best work, you must master a specific skill set. Below are the top 11 tools and skills to produce the most success from any team.

1) Strategic Thinking

Chess players know that to win, they must outsmart their opponent by thinking several moves ahead. A chess player must see where they want to move and anticipate where their opponent will move well before taking action.

This ability to think strategically is a skill that business leaders must have as well. Strategic thinking lets you effectively plan ahead and identify how you’ll respond to various situations.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Strategic Thinking

  • Team movements that require innovation and adaptation to align with new organizational priorities
  • Rising concerns that merit thorough decision-making
  • New competitors entering the market that prompt the formulation of impactful competitive strategies

While every leader is different, there are some must-have skills for strategic leaders.

2) Decision Making Skills

We make decisions every day. Situations requiring big and small choices seem to creep up on us. They can also come at us fast and furious. Sometimes, the decision is minor, with no major impact on our daily lives. Other decisions are more significant and will impact our lives and our employees’ lives as well.

Experts suggest that simple apps could help improve your decision-making skills. Apps like Lumosity or Fit Brains Trainer are like a brain gymnasium. These apps let you exercise your mental muscles and sharpen your mind. You may also consider adding physical activities like dancing and getting a good night’s sleep to improve this critical skill.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Decision-Making

  • Crisis management: During work emergencies, quick and impactful decision-making is crucial in mitigating risks.
  • New product launch: Making decisions about a product’s features, strategies, and marketing channels ensures that the team meets customer expectations and market demands.

3) Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, working or personal. Conflict resolution is a learned skill that can be taught, developed, and refined. A study by Purdue University found that students with hands-on learning experiences gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that are being taught.

Attending a conflict resolution workshop can provide a controlled-environment conflict experience to better handle difficult and uncomfortable situations and work toward a positive resolution.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Conflict Resolution

  • Disagreements over project priorities or strategies: Team members may have differing opinions on priorities or strategies. Conflict resolution will help identify shared goals, clarify priorities, and build a consensus to better align efforts.
  • Cross-functional conflicts: Conflict resolution skills facilitate better communication across departments to mitigate silos and foster cooperation.
Discover how CMOE's leadership training workshops can create lasting change and address the unique needs of your leaders.

4) Team Building Activities

Seventy-five percent of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as very important. Yet, 86 percent of employees and executives blamed a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failings.

Good leaders recognize that they’re only as good as those around them. Instituting team-building activities allows teams time to bond. The activities also let them decompress from their jobs for a few minutes.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Team Building Activities

  • New team formation: Team building activities are a great way to break the ice when new people join an existing team or a completely new team is formed. Through these activities, you can build rapport and establish camaraderie.
  • Kickoff meetings or retreats: Activities set the tone for an enjoyable and productive meeting or retreat. Teams can invest time in bridging the gap between functional areas and breaking down silos.

5) Delegation Skills

One of the critical tools a leader can use to increase efficiency and develop others is delegation. Delegating responsibilities benefits you by letting you complete other necessary tasks while letting your team grow.

When you delegate responsibility, you have more time to focus elsewhere, and your team can learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. It also lets you see how different team members respond when faced with a new task.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Delegation

  • Overwhelmed leaders: If you feel overwhelmed with tasks, delegation allows you to distribute your workload and focus on high-priority responsibilities. This also provides team members the opportunity to work on new projects and further develop their skills.
  • Time-sensitive tasks: Projects with tight deadlines can also be delegated. This ensures efficient completion of tasks without compromising quality. The key is to delegate tasks to those who have the right skills and experience to fulfill the project.

6) Mentorship Programs

Have you ever faced a new project and relied on Google or YouTube to learn how to do it? Don’t you wish you had that direct resource for solving business problems? Many organizations recognize this need and have implemented mentorship programs to support new or rising team members.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Mentorship

  • Establish a leadership bench: A mentorship program can help identify and groom high-potentials for management positions. Team members can work with leaders to identify their strengths and passions to craft a tailored leadership plan.
  • Elevates problem-solving and performance: Since mentorship builds an environment where leaders support individuals, this provides staff with a sounding board for solving problems and has been shown to increase job performance and benefit mentors as well.

7) Innovation

“If you’re not evolving, you’re dying”—Marcus Lemonis

That statement holds today more than ever before. Innovation is one of the top professional development tools in the management arsenal. The ability to lead innovation and create change allows a company to thrive. Apple is known for its innovation and has changed the world with its consistent drive toward new, improved, and unique products.

People often believe innovation happens by sitting around waiting for inspiration to hit and then taking action. In reality, innovation skills involve brainstorming, collaboration, and trial and error. Much like conflict resolution, you can refine and learn innovation skills. Skill development is a conscious decision requiring discipline and dedication to master.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Innovation

  • Process improvement: Identifying newer and better ways to innovate is a great opportunity. Innovative solutions can advance processes and elevate productivity.
  • Market expansion: Organizations looking to expand their products and services in the marketplace and capitalize on opportunities must innovate. Innovative strategies allow leaders to target different customer segments or diversity offerings.

8) 360-Degree Assessment

A 360-degree assessment gathers feedback and data from multiple key stakeholders (e.g., managers, peers, team members, clients) regarding one’s performance.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage 360-Degree Assessments

  • Elevate self-awareness: The assessment aims to help leaders better understand their blind spots and become more self-aware of how their behaviors and actions impact those around them.
  • Create an impactful development plan: The assessment’s data also encourages leaders to craft a plan for improving their performance, approach, and behaviors.

9) Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the secret to business success. This skill set identifies, understands, and influences emotions in yourself and others.

At the end of the day, leaders are human beings who interact with other humans in the workplace. Emotional intelligence teaches leaders how to manage better and leverage emotional responses to drive productivity.

blocks representing leadership toolsDevelop emotional intelligence by examining and improving upon these five components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Internal motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills
  • Self-regulation

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Emotional Intelligence

  • Improve teamwork: Teams with emotional intelligence strike the right balance between fostering quality relationships and solving business problems. They encourage more diverse perspectives, resolve conflicts constructively, and build stronger interpersonal relationships.
  • Elevate leadership development: Leaders with high emotional intelligence drive impactful collaboration in the workplace. They are better positioned to positively impact their own and others’ performance.

10) Change Management Skills

Change is inevitable in any organization and industry. Change-management skills let you help team members confidently tackle and adapt to these shifts.

These skills may include being able to drive:

  • Alignment meetings to discuss concerns and roadblocks amid organizational shifts. A successful leader helps teams establish priorities and select relevant initiatives.
  • A learning culture to fuel a workforce open to developing new competencies and skills.
  • The correct leadership style to help team members confidently focus on objectives amid changing priorities.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Change Management

  • Individual shifts: A team member may work on confronting their own emotions and reactions that arise as a result of change.
  • Organizational shifts: Change management on a company level may involve teams building new behavioral habits to stay aligned with new organizational values.
  • Enterprise shifts: This includes long-term endeavors where the organization adopts change policies and processes. For example, a company undergoing mergers and acquisitions will require mapping out an extensive plan that outlines departmental and priority shifts.

11) Curiosity

Good leaders are curious individuals who consistently ask what, why, and how? These simple questions open the floodgates to new perspectives and ideas.

Curiosity is a powerful yet often overlooked skill that drives motivation and innovation. When individuals take time to step out of their comfort zone, they’ll be more willing to find new ways of doing things or strategies that can ultimately elevate the organization’s competitive advantage.

Ideal Scenarios to Leverage Curiosity

  • Research and development: Organizations that want to drive their R&D efforts must fuel them with curiosity. Curiosity inspires a growth mindset, encouraging teams to consistently seek out new improvement avenues, challenge existing ideas, and uncover novel insights.
  • Engagement: Curiosity is helpful when understanding the needs of your customers or team members. This allows you to gain deeper insights and build a product, service, or workplace culture that offers value.

Improve Your Team’s Performance with These Vital Skills

The 11 skills and tools above are what make an authentic leader. Authenticity lays the groundwork for a psychologically safe and productive work environment. It also creates space for leaders to carry the team’s ideas to full fruition successfully.

For more guidance on developing current and prospective leaders, learn about CMOE’s team-building seminars and workshops. Click Here to Get the Tools to Perfect Your Team Today

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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