Today, many of us face incredible pressures to deliver immediate results, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing workload. The pace and urgency of daily demands can make it difficult to look even one step ahead. Successful, strategic leaders are different; they learn to look ahead and not just think about today, but also tomorrow. Thinking and acting like a strategist is nothing more than the capacity to anticipate, and the discipline to evaluate, prepare, and position yourself for the future.
As humans, we have the capacity to think broadly, if we choose. Being a strategist means having the courage to think deliberately and deeply about what you want to create and achieve. Strategic thinking is about creativity, intuition and planning to help you reach your business and personal goals. In essence, strategic people think and act before they are forced to take up a reactive position. We must realize that everyone is the leader of his or her own job, projects, assignments, and customers. Effective leadership means being prepared for what happens in the future, as well as being responsible for what happens today.
The problem we face in becoming more strategic in our thinking and planning is our tendency to be addicted to “short term” thinking and the routine activity trap. As a consequence, we continue to do what we’ve always done, though changing conditions may make old solutions irrelevant to today’s problems. We simply overlook options or opportunities to see our situation from a strategic perspective.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to pay attention to the daily operational issues. We are frequently rewarded for it and job security often depends upon it. But, we must learn to look to the horizon and identify the signals that indicate coming changes in our own area of responsibility that will lead to effective solutions and impact tomorrow’s success. You have to shift gears and focus your mind with discipline and skill so you satisfy both the tactical and strategic demands of your job. When you develop the discipline to set aside the urgencies of the day and concentrate on the horizon, you create enormous advantages for yourself and the business.
Your contribution will increase if you master the principles and skills of personal strategic thinking. You will have to develop patience and balance operational issues as you give your mind a chance to think, reflect, and contemplate. You will have to resist constant pressure for instant results, quick fixes, and fast solutions to every challenge or dilemma. In short, you will have to be courageous and bold as you try to bring more balance and a strategic perspective into your life.
You can be more successful strategist if you think ahead, determine what it will take to make a difference, and make a greater contribution. When you adopt an innovative and proactive mindset, you will be more prepared for the tough decisions, realities, and opportunities that come your way.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.
Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries.
Steve enjoys the challenges of
• Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business.
• Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations.
• Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans.
The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.
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