7 Tips for Developing Strategic Leaders
According to a 2013 study by Management Research Group (MRG) published in the Harvard Business Review, 97 percent of a group of 10,000 senior executives stated strategic thinking is the most critical leadership skill when it comes to the success of an organization. Vice President of Research, Robert Kabacoff, states that he believes it’s the “most important think you can do as a leader.”
Kabacoff defines strategic leaders as those that take a “broad, long-range approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involves analysis, thinking ahead, and planning.” When compared to other behaviors also considered highly critical to effective leadership, another MRG study of 60,000 managers and executives globally found it was perceived as twice as important as communication, and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors.
Building Strategic Leaders
Because strategic thinking is so strongly linked to the overall effectiveness and success of your organizations, it’s crucial to ensure your organization is doing all it can to foster strategic leaders. Kabacoff gives 7 strategies for developing strategic thinkers:
- Encourage managers to set a regular time aside for strategic planning (alone and in meeting with others). A strategic approach takes time. Make it a regular part of their job.
- Provide information to your leaders on the market, the industry, customers, competitors and new technologies that influence your business. One of the key prerequisites of strategic leadership is having relevant and broad business information that helps leaders elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day.
- Keep people informed on what is happening internally. Effective strategy requires information shared across boundaries; cross-functional teams can work on strategic organizational issues, and the results of their thinking and efforts should be published and shared throughout the organization.
- Connect managers with a mentor. One of the most effective ways to develop your strategic skills is to be mentored by someone who is highly strategic. The ideal mentor is someone who is widely known for his/her ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.
- Communicate a well-articulated philosophy, mission and goal statement throughout the organization. Individuals and groups need to understand the broader organizational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies.
- Reward people for evidence of thinking, not just reacting; wherever possible, organizational culture should encourage anticipating opportunities and avoiding problems, and discourage crisis management. For example, managers are rewarded for being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identifying the solution with the greatest long-term benefit for the organization.
- Promote a future perspective for employees by incorporating it into training and development programs; teach people what strategic thinking is and encourage them to ask “why” and “when” questions. When a manager suggests course of action, their boss can ask them to consider what underlying strategic goal this action serves, and what the impact will be on internal and external stakeholders. Consistently asking these two questions whenever action is considered will go a long way towards developing strategic leaders.
The above strategies may not be easy to implement at first, but with time and determination, you will be well on your way towards building exceptional leadership within your organization.
Read the full article in the Harvard Business Review here.
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