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Category: Expertise strategy

Empower your teams through strategic thinking

This article considers why strategic thinking is crucial to effective leadership and explores some practical ways for leaders at all levels to develop this skill.

Sharon Hogan, Senior Training & Project Management Consultant

Over time, with guidance and considerable personal motivation, working in business may lead to individuals amassing a range of critical skillsets needed to grow into an accomplished business leader.

Skills such as relationship building, decision-making, negotiating and motivating people, are all essential tools to add to the leadership arsenal.

However, it is mastering the vision and discipline of strategic thinking that can lift these skills and translate them into a great leader steering a successful and growing business.

 

Why is strategic thinking important?

Working on the assumption that sustained business growth is the desired outcome, in the ever-changing economic landscape, an organization is unlikely to achieve prosperity without having a compelling, long-term business vision in place - together with a plan to work towards it.

A business consultant giving a presentation at work.

The ability to set a clear vision backed by measurable objectives, effective strategies, and carried out using coherent tactics is leadership bread and butter.

However, a leader with a strategic mindset, whether intuitive or taught, will be able to pull these strands together to develop well-rounded, effective strategies with tangible results.

Strategic thinking is not just about creating well thought-out plans. It involves adaptability, foresight, creativity, resilience, collaboration, and a deep understanding of your organization, the wider business environment and its influences. A strong leader with this mindset will calculate where they want the business to be, based on thorough market analysis, and plot the course to get there, absorbing and adapting to any bumps and obstacles on the way.

 

Can anyone learn strategic thinking?

Undoubtedly, some individuals have a proclivity towards strategic planning and thinking, with an innate analytical approach. This is an advantage, but strategic thinking is primarily a mindset, and this can be taught and practiced.

Just like with learning and honing the right skills, there needs to be a commitment to success.


 

Strategic thinking begins with a long-term perspective, but not at the expense of forgetting short-term goals.

 


A McKinsey report on leadership reveals that sustained business growth is something that eludes many CEOs. It states that a quarter of companies do not grow at all, and for many that do, it is at a slow pace. The report describes growth as a ‘conscious, resolute choice’.

Once a business leader commits to growth, strategic thinking skills come into play.

How to cultivate a strategic mindset and culture

1. Think long-term

Strategic thinking begins with a long-term perspective. Leaders must find time to rise above the distractions of day-to-day operations and by looking forward, they can identify emerging trends, anticipate challenges, and position their organisation for sustained success.

This long-term outlook goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to continuous learning. Leaders who excel in strategic thinking stay informed about industry trends, global and technological developments, and societal shifts that may impact the business in the future. By investing in their own education and that of their teams, leaders can make informed decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the business environment.

Business people asking questions during a meeting.

2. Forge a culture of innovation

Innovation is central to strategic thinking. Effective leaders build a work environment that encourages creativity and embraces change. By fostering a culture of innovation, leaders empower their teams to think outside the box and explore new possibilities. This mindset not only drives continuous improvement but also puts the business in a strong position to adapt to evolving market conditions.

3. Stick to your core values

Strategic thinking requires a deep understanding of an organisation's core values and purpose. Where strategic objectives align with these values, decision-making becomes more purposeful, and the business can build and maintain a clear and consistent identity. It is also likely to increase employee engagement and customer loyalty.


 

  By anticipating different outcomes and preparing contingency plans, leaders can navigate unforeseen challenges with agility and resilience.

 


4. Encourage collaboration

Strategic thinking thrives in an environment of collaboration. By involving key stakeholders in decision-making, leaders can harness diverse perspectives to build more robust strategies. This collaborative approach also enhances buy-in from team members, fostering a shared sense of ownership and commitment to strategic goals, which, in turn, is more likely to see these goals achieved.

5. Be prepared

In a world of uncertainty, leaders must be prepared for various possible scenarios. Scenario planning involves exploring multiple potential futures and developing strategies to address each one. By anticipating different outcomes and preparing contingency plans, leaders can navigate unforeseen challenges with agility and resilience. This proactive approach is essential for mitigating risks and seizing opportunities in a rapidly changing business landscape.

6. Don't forget short-term goals

Strategic thinking requires a delicate balance between short and long-term goals. While it's crucial to always keep the long-term vision in mind, business leaders still need to allocate some time to addressing immediate challenges and capitalising on quick wins.

To summarize

Mastering the art of strategic thinking is a continuous journey for leaders at all levels that benefits from conscious nurture and training. It requires a combination of skills, commitment, and a balanced perspective. It is also not a static skill but, rather, a dynamic mindset that can propel businesses towards sustained success whatever the world throws at it.

Ready to find out more?

Ask us how we can help you succeed.

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