In today’s changing world a leader must be able to successfully manage day-to-day operations, as well as thinking proactively and planning for the future. Merely keeping up with the daily requirements isn’t enough. It’s only those who can stay ahead of the rapid pace of change, anticipate needs, and develop innovative strategies that will be tomorrow’s successful leaders.
This calls for a new set of leadership behaviors and fresh approaches that can be developed and incorporated into your existing leadership style.
Through CMOE’s experience working directly with leaders at all levels, we have found seven qualities that differentiate truly strategic leaders from the rest.
Ownership – Successful strategic leaders have a keen sense of ownership. They think and act like business owners and care deeply about the organization’s mission and long-term success. They understand how profit is made and what the customers will need, both now and in the future. They create a culture of empowerment, take action, and enable others to take responsibility for achieving results.
Tenacity – There is something special operating inside of strategic leaders that goes beyond determination and commitment. We believe that the differentiator is tenacity. Leaders certainly need a “plan to win,” but executing on that strategy and acting proactively over the long term takes strength, focused intensity, and deep personal drive.
Risk – Like it or not, we live in an uncertain world. A strategic leader’s perspective on taking risks can set him or her apart from other leaders when it comes to making a unique contribution to the business. You need to be courageous and willing to take calculated risks with new, bold, or different ideas. Really good strategic leaders operate with the belief that they can’t afford not to take risks.
Agility – Agile leaders are nimble and have a sense of how their longer-term plans are unfolding so they can move quickly when problems or opportunities emerge. They don’t defer issues or procrastinate when there are decisions that need to be made. They waste no time in making smart, well-thought-out moves. Our findings agree with Brian McGowan, who asserted in the Forbes magazine article Agility: The Ingredient That Will Define Next Generation Leadership that “only 10% of today’s employees have the appropriate level of leadership agility” (June 2012), and we obviously need to close that gap.
Awareness – Strategic leaders with high levels of awareness pay attention to the road signs and indicators that will influence their future. They recognize that by being attuned to all kinds of signals, they have greater control over the forces that will shape their future—forces that can either work for them or against them. Gathering good information is critical to developing a full picture of the world in which you operate.
Driving Change – Leaders who act as the driving force of change take action on new ideas when the opportunity opens up. They come up with new, breakthrough ideas and then implement them. You won’t be able to conduct business as usual and survive. You must be willing to challenge the status quo in order to build something stronger and better.
Vision – Visionary leaders can describe future success in a clear and compelling way. They can even make you feel as though you are living in that moment right now. The picture of this “better place,” is grounded, practical, and achievable—but still ambitious and bold.
Mastering these abilities can be challenging. CMOE’s new book, The Art of Strategic Leadership explores the qualities exhibited by strong strategic leaders and helps you gain a better understanding of the strategic leadership qualities you already have—and those you need to develop further in order to make a powerful impact on your organization’s future.