Six strategic-thinking secrets to make you a better leader

Are great leaders born or made?

While there is sufficient evidence for both sides of this debate, the key take-away is for leaders to constantly focus on improvements and raise the bar. At Achievers, we foster a fast-paced and dynamic workplace where processes evolve based on business opportunities and our organization’s vision to be the global leader in rewards and recognition. The best leaders are able to adapt to constant changes, and strategic thinking is one of their most powerful tools.

In the recent Inc.com article, 6 Habits of Strategic Thinkers, contributor Paul J.H. Schoemaker discusses six things adaptive strategic leaders do well. Since employee engagement ultimately depends on a strong corporate culture, this aspect of strategic leadership should be a critical priority for all organizations.

Remember, you don’t need a title to exhibit leadership qualities in the workplace. If you wish to advance and take on more responsibilities, then it’s best to adhere to strategic thinking practices and act like a leader.

Check out the following six strategic thinking secrets to make you a better leader:

  1. Anticipate: Most companies concentrate their energies on what’s directly ahead. To anticipate well, you must look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry and search beyond the current boundaries of your business to avoid costly vulnerabilities to competitors.
  2. Think Critically: Engaged employees are able to reframe problems to uncover root causes; they can challenge current beliefs and mindsets to find the best solution to a problem. Critical thinking is part of every organization’s competitive advantage and is an asset to success.
  3. Interpret: A good strategic leader considers reliable, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. The most effective interpretation involves questioning assumptions and seeking patterns in multiple sources of data. Don’t just settle on the quick fix – back up your arguments with sound interpretation of real data.
  4. Decide: It’s up to you. Carefully frame each decision around the positive outcome, which should attribute to the big picture of an organization’s success. Forget about being perfect; the best decisions are made from a balance of speed, rigor, quality, and agility.
  5. Align: A strategic leader must foster open dialogue and understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden. Bring tough issues to the surface. At the end of the day, the most successful leaders take on uncomfortable challenges and make a difference.
  6. Learn: Honest feedback is hard to come by, but it will only make you better. Success and failure—especially failure—are valuable sources of organizational learning. Solicit real-time feedback from your direct reports or coworkers, and make sure to celebrate successes and impactful failures that provide insight.

Strategic thinkers will position the organization for success and develop processes that drive results. Every employee, whether in a leadership position or not, should focus on these six elements of strategic thinking to remain aligned with the big picture and answer the most important question: “Do my every day actions contribute value to my organization’s success?”

If employees are not aligned with the organization’s goals or do not understand how their contributions drive end results, then strategic thinking is missing from the equation. Strategic thinking is not just an item to check off the daily to-do list; it’s an evolved process that paves the road to success. What do you think is the most effective element of strategic thinking?

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