Why Strategic Leadership?
Strategic leadership is a quality that businesses need their leaders to have, but it’s a skill that many leaders lack. In its simplest form, strategic leadership is the ability to motivate and coach others and help ensure a company’s long-term success. If strategic leadership training is so important, then why do less than 10 percent of leaders exhibit these skills?
Often, managers are thrust into leadership positions and given little or no formal training. Many are so busy simply trying to gather their bearings that strategic-leadership training is often the last thing on their minds. As a result, new managers are frequently left to learn on their own. To help fill this void, we’ve developed a list of the must-have strengths of strategic leaders.
1) Be Able To Anticipate What Is Coming
Having the ability to anticipate what the future holds is a key skill that sets strategic leaders apart. Thankfully, learning to anticipate the future doesn’t take a crystal ball. You can refine and develop this skill with practice and by learning to work through all the potential outcomes when you are faced with a tough decision. As you hone your strategic thinking skills, it will become easier to see the potential consequences of the decisions you need to make. This will help you as you and your team start to make plans for 3 months, 6 months, or a year or more down the road.
2) Have The Courage To Do The Unpopular
In 1997, Steve Jobs cut Apple’s product line by 70 percent. This drastic reduction in the company’s product portfolio led to Apple having to lay off around 3,000 employees. It’s no exaggeration to say that Jobs was a pretty unpopular person around Cupertino at that time. However, his ability to do what was unpopular, but necessary, led to Apple focusing on just a few core products—which ultimately led them to create revolutionary products like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad.
3) Learn From The Past
“The wizard of Menlo Park,” aka Thomas Edison, is known as one of the greatest inventors of the modern era. Edison is famous for inventing the incandescent light bulb. He is also famously quoted for talking about his so-called failures in a positive light. He said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Edison’s ability to learn from the past led him to acquire over 1,000 patents, and he held the record for the most patents filed until 2003 (more than 80 years after his death), when he was surpassed by the Japanese inventor Shunpei Yamazaki.
4) Have The Ability To Challenge Yourself And Your Team
In psychology, there is a phenomenon called “The Pygmalion Effect,” which says that people live up to, or down to, the expectations of their supervisors. What this means is that if you believe that your team members will fail at a project, they probably will. However, the converse is also true: if you believe that your team members will succeed, they probably will.
The self-fulfilling prophecy also called “The Galatea Effect” is another powerful phenomenon. It has to do with how much a person believes in him or herself. It’s important for strategic leaders to help their employees challenge the beliefs they hold about themselves and their abilities, as well as to help them grow.
5) See An Opportunity And Seize It
Strategic leaders see opportunities and seize them. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Henry Ford saw an opportunity and seized it. He’s famous (among other things) for saying, “If I had asked people for what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’” Ford could see the coming necessity of automobiles, something that many others couldn’t see, and he also saw how he could make an impact on the way we look at the world—and on the way we travel through it.
6) Be A Dreamer
When did following your dream become taboo? When Walt Disney had a dream of becoming a cartoonist, he enrolled in weekend classes at the Kansas City Art Institute as well as McKinley High School, where he became the cartoonist for the school newspaper. He would go on to start Disney Studios and create Mickey Mouse, one of the world’s best-known characters. Disney’s dream of becoming a great cartoonist changed the cartoon, animation, amusement-park, and television industries forever.
7) Be an Influencer
Lastly, strategic leaders are influential and able to persuade people to follow them and believe in what they’re doing. Disney, Jobs, Ford, and Edison wouldn’t have gotten very far if the people around them hadn’t believed in what they were doing. Accomplishing your goals and taking your team to the next level depends largely on the people around you. Alexander the Great is quoted as saying, “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.” We would say, why not have an army of lions led by a lion? Your kingdom in the jungle awaits.