In an article written by Shoemaker, Krupp, and Howland (2013) in the Harvard Business Review, the authors state that unpredictable environments make for greater opportunities for leadership. However, the authors point out that leaders must have the appropriate skills. The authors identified six leadership skills that once mastered and used appropriately, allow leaders to think strategically to become more effective. The six identified skills are the abilities to: anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align, and learn.
Are you able to detect threats and opportunities in your business and home life? Strategic leaders are able to anticipate by scanning the environment for signs of change. Effective leaders are able to pick up on weak signals of change because of the broad networks they have developed inside and outside the organization. Strategic leaders learn to talk to others in order to understand their challenges. In addition, leaders conduct market research and business simulations to understand others’ perspectives.
Strategic leaders challenge the status quo. These leaders question assumptions and encourage alternate points of view. Effective leaders take time to reflect on consequences and other factors before making a decision. Leaders who are strategic are generally patient, courageous, and open minded. Strategic leaders focus on the root causes of a problem and encourage debates to find solutions. In addition, leaders include all people in the discussion of solutions to problems.
The best leaders are able to take all the input of information from many sources and interpret it instead of reacting to things they see or hear. These leaders are able to recognize patterns, seek new insights, and get through ambiguous circumstances. Strategic leaders often make lists of possible explanations for observations, focus on details, and actively look for missing information.
In the uncertain times we are experiencing now, leaders are required to make decisions with incomplete information quickly. However, strategic leaders require multiple options and do not make decisions too quickly. They tend to follow a very structured process for decision making that takes goals into account. Strategic leaders divide big decisions into pieces that are easier to understand. In addition, leaders determine who needs to be directly involved in the decision making process.
Strategic leaders are able to find common ground with a diverse group of people. These leaders are also able to get these people to buy in to a common goal. Success of these leaders depend on proactive communication, trust building, and frequent engagement. These leaders communicate early and often, use conversations to expose areas of misunderstanding, and recognize then reward colleagues who support the team goals.
Strategic leaders are central to organizational learning. Effective leaders promote learning opportunities and create a culture of inquiry. These leaders conduct annual learning reviews, identify initiatives that are not affective and identify root causes, and create a culture in which inquiry if valued. The following tips can help you develop your strategic leadership skills for the new year.
- Develop networks that allow you to see opportunities
- Challenge your own and others’ assumptions
- Get a diverse group to buy into a common vision
- Learn from mistakes