Strategic thinking is a key skill for leaders. When I first became a leader, I often dealt with tactical challenges and had little time to think. I’ve seen other young leaders go through the same thing as they advance in their careers. This week’s newsletter will be about how to think and act more strategically, as well as the advantages of doing so.

Strategic thinking is an important skill. But in the classroom or at work, we do not learn how to think. Many teachers and managers often compliment us for following conventional thinking and refraining from raising too many questions. Early in our careers, they often reward people for the speed of their execution rather than for asking questions. Then, when we advance to a leadership position, where they expect us to spend time on strategic thinking, we spend all of our time handling trivial and tactical issues. Many emerging leaders complain about their lack of time for strategic thinking. The truth, however, is that they are incapable of strategic thinking, even when they have time.

I’ve seen several junior leaders think that reading about industry trends, conducting innovative research, and developing original ideas is the only way to start strategic thinking. This is not always true. Our ability to clearly and concisely articulate a project’s goal, scope, benefits, and problems is a prerequisite for strategic thinking. To think strategically, we need to examine patterns of performance using available financial, operational, customer, and competitor data that reveal future opportunities or risks.

The immediate gratification of solving a problem in the short term is far more appealing than making a prudent decision. In my early leadership career, I fell into that lure and wasted time trying to solve tactical issues; mostly, you are also making the same mistake if you are a new leader. It’s important to think objectively. You’ll find fresh ideas that you’ve never considered before. Strategic thinking requires weighing the costs and making a decision. There is always a trade-off between doing something and not doing something else.

I’ve seen people spend hours and hours of meeting time on planning. Afterward, a few months later, nobody is interested in that plan. Strategic thinking requires a careful balance of planning for the future while acting in the present. Your strategy by itself won’t be enough to get you forward. You’ll need strategies to put into action by defining clear tactics.

I would advise you to plan your strategy first, then discuss it with your team at meetings, encourage them to question your assumptions, and give them the freedom to ask tough questions. Seeking others’ opinions and encouraging different perspectives that challenge our own are excellent ways to identify blind spots. Use the input to adjust your strategy as necessary. Then schedule in your team’s calendar which day of the week and what time you will implement your strategy.

In leadership, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But I hope my experience and tips help you think strategically. Thank you for reading.


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