How to Think Strategically (And get everything you want accomplished)Oct 30, 2022
What does it mean to be strategic as a leader?
Being strategic is essential to understanding and using in your day-to-day Leadership.
Being strategic doesn't mean having your head in the clouds.
Often leaders get a bad rap for this from their team members in many ways because I'll hear from different leadership teams a complaint about the founder or CEO. Often, they'll say, “My leader is too strategic in their thinking, or they're always changing the plan, or they're living in the future too much.”
However, being strategic is a vital skill for you as a leader, even if your team often misunderstands it. It is essential to realize that most of the people you lead are paid to “execute”. So, they do their job in many ways when they ask for directions to get to work. As a leader, you must first ground yourself in your vision and strategy; otherwise, you create a bunch of people working on disconnected actions. This is very unproductive and ultimately does not serve anyone.
The question is, what are you asking your team to execute? Without a strong vision, you'll be left asking yourself, where are we going? And your team will ask that as well. Where are we going, boss, show us the way.
And without a strong vision for yourself, your leadership will be more or less in a vacuum where leadership becomes putting out fires and dealing with emergencies.
The point is that great leaders have a very strategic mindset. Strategy is how you make the vision happen.
So, I see something, the vision in my head where I want the business to grow, or the customers we want to serve or the way that we want to interact with the market or the profit we want to have, the revenue we want to have, or the global impact we want to have.
Those are visions. That's being a visionary leader. Strategy answers the question, “How do we close the gap between what is possible and what we produce in reality?” Hand in hand with strategy is vision. Now you ask yourself, how do we get there? How do we fill the gap between where we are today and where we want to go?
So being strategic requires a mindset.
And what happens with strategic thinking is that you place yourself in the future.
Now imagine in your mind's eye that now you’re living in that end state, whatever that vision is that you have for yourself and your leadership.
There you are, with the business looking precisely the way you saw it could be.
Examples could be:
We want to grow by X.
We want to have this kind of impact on the world.
Our business wants to be internationally recognized.
We want to serve X number of customers in X number of markets.
We want to alter the way others do business in our industry.
And there's a way that you see that in your head. So being strategic means I give myself the room and space to think from that end state.
And I place myself there in advance of it being a reality. It is imagination. I'm with myself in the future state of the organization. And I stand there, and then I look back to where I am today. And for some of you, that may be a few months, but often strategic futures are over many years.
You may have a five-year plan for your business. Or you may have a two year plan for your business, or some businesses have a 20-year plan.
Whatever that time frame is, you decide, stand at the end state of that future being realized, and look backward to today. And then you think to yourself, what were the strategies we had that got us here?
What did we engage with? What did we do? What were the ways that we climbed the mountain to get here?
The end state is the pinnacle of the mountain. You have summited the mountain of success in your business, and now there are many ways that you could climb up the mountain, but standing from the top, you have a view of all of it, and you can look down and see all the different pathways and trails and boulders.
As a leader, being strategic means you know how to shift your mindset to a strategic thinking mindset where you place yourself in the end state. And then you ask yourself, how did we arrive here?
You'll never know the best route; part of the risk of being a leader is taking your best shot and saying, “Team, this is the path we're choosing to take.” Or you get their input and together as a team, even more importantly, you say, “This is the path we're going to take together.”
Strategic thinking is more of an inner game than an outer game. It's more about your mindset and coming from where we will accomplish what reset out to accomplish. We may have to change strategy many times along the way. One trailhead up the mountain may end with a wall. You just can't climb it. You may have to go down to a base camp and try another route or invent a new way through the wall! That's all part of the game of leading. But when we know that from the beginning, then it's exciting.
And then our obstacles aren’t the end of the game - they are the access to the true path to the top.
The absolute joy of leading is setting the path from the goal and inviting people to climb the mountain with you knowing full well that you're going to hit many obstacles, but that doesn't define success.
Strategic thinking is knowing that you can always devise a plan to make the obstacles disappear on your success journey.
Find more resources on leading your team to success here.
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