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Five Attributes and Skills of the Strategic Leader and Thinker

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The Thinker – Bill Gates by Steve Jurvetson

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a strategic leader and have come to the conclusion that it starts with becoming a strategic thinker. It is common for the leader (executive,
manager and the professional) to get caught up in day-to-day activities. Being a strategic thinker is a choice since most people are not born with strategic thinking skills. Therefore, to be a strategic leader and thinker means you need to develop another set of attributes and skills.

Here are five attributes of the strategic leader and thinker:

Use a systems approach to help you predict: A lesson from the world of business analysis helps. In business analysis there is a simple systems that says define the business problem or opportunity, evaluate the alternative solutions (1, 2 and 3), make a decision and implement, then measure the results. In using a system you are seeking to understand and find game changing information and opportunities. The challenge, go beyond the present boundaries and look at the world in a broader context. Using the business analyst model and broadening your boundaries should help you understand the implications of strategic actions.

Think and make timely decisions through critical thinking: Related to having a system that everyone can use is the ability to hold the past, present and future in mind and making better decisions to improve implementation. The critical thinking component is reasoned judgment, logical and thought out. To do so you must be curious, skeptical and possess some humility. You weigh the pros and cons, question arguments and conclusions. You ask the ‘what and why’, listen to the response, state the ‘so what’ and come to a conclusion. Even through critical thinking you must be willing to consider unusual ideas and solutions.

Intense focus through analysis and interpretation: Most people do not like ambiguity as we are people of habit and generally need to know what is expected and the outcome. When analyzing anything there is the temptation to jump to solution. The strategic leader looks at all the information available at this present time, asks their team to do the same, performs assumption analysis through questioning and looks for patterns from all information sources and data.

Align through relationship engagement: There is an old saying which can be adapted from the sales world for the leader when it comes to relationship engagement; like you, know you, trust you, and work with you. The strategic leader builds relationships, engages stakeholders and achieves consensus. The quicker people trust you the faster you can understand their motivations, drivers, agendas and deal with issues and risk areas. Trust is about getting people to work with you, establishing foundational support and creating linkages from the strategic, tactical and operational.

Growth through learning: This is a commitment to learning and teaching others throughout your life. This is not always easy as it means you must be willing to be evaluated and receive feedback. Take training, have mentors and be part of a master mind team to help you grow. Whether you learn through success or failure there is value in the lessons learned. As part of learning be willing to stay nimble and adjust and modify your behavior and approach. The key is personal growth, always.

Being a strategic leader and thinker is not reserved for the people at the top of the organization. Strategic leaders and thinkers develop their skills through making a conscious effort to grow, learn and apply their abilities. The key is to know where you need to grow as a strategic leader and thinker.

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