think more strategically as a leader

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Think More Strategically As A Leader

Strategic thinking is one of the most powerful leadership skills, but that doesn’t mean all leaders possess it. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be a great strategist  – you grow into one with practice and experience. 

“Most people get rewarded and promoted into leadership positions by being good ‘do-ers’ of tactical projects. However, to grow into an exceptional leader, you must learn how to think in terms of strategy and become adept at translating strategic priorities into tactical actions to achieve desired outcomes,” says Mark Mears, former Fortune 500 Executive and author of the bestselling book, The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder.  

Not only does strategic thinking help you achieve goals, but it also allows you to solve problems more effectively and deal with the unknown, adds executive coach and business strategist Vivien Roggero. According to him, examples of strategic thinking in action include identifying the root cause of a problem, finding a creative way to overcome an obstacle, and anticipating future roadblocks. 

Ready to improve your ability to think strategically as a leader? Embrace the following six habits. 

1. Stay curious 

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat when it comes to strategy. “Seek out demonstrated best practices from both inside the organization – within your team or other teams in different departments)– as well as outside the organization – among competitors in your industry or companies with similar challenges outside your industry,” recommends Mears.  

As he puts it, incorporating “inputs from a variety of sources”  helps you broaden your perspective so you can assess challenges and opportunities from different angles and figure out the right moves for your team and organization. 

2. Always be open to learning 

Curiosity and learning go hand in hand. You can’t ever get so confident about what you know that you forget that there are many things that you don’t know. “As a leader, we cannot always guarantee that we are as knowledgeable as we think we are. There is always room for more learning, and this is something we need to be aware of, otherwise, we cannot think outside the box when a complex problem or situation arises,” says Roggero. 

From listening to people from all levels of the organization to being open to being wrong, staying receptive to learning opportunities is key. 

3. Measure what matters

Measure what matters, recommends Mears: “Understand what (really) drives your business results – not only the metrics that provide an end result but the many different key performance indicators (KPI) that generate those outcomes.” 

As a leader, you want to make sure team members are pursuing those KPIs on an individual level as well – within their sphere of influence and in ways that connect with the broader strategies of the organization. “A leader should recognize and reward those performance metrics as much, if not more so, than the achievement of the broader results,” adds Mears. 

A platform like Hive can make that task a little easier for you thanks to features like Hive Goals, which allows you to set custom goals and track your team’s progress against them. Hive also offers plenty of ways to automate data reporting so you can save time and money while keeping an eye on key metrics. 

4. Explore worst-case scenarios 

If you want to improve your strategic thinking skills, it’s important to explore worst-case scenarios and even discuss them with your team, adds Roggero: “Creating a plan B, C, D, and so on, is very helpful when certain circumstances arise. By creating more than one backup plan, you are actually determining the possibilities of the outcome of a situation at hand.” 

5. Ask powerful questions

As a leader, you should practically be asking more questions than making statements. Some questions are more powerful than others. Mears suggests getting into the habit of using prompts that challenge the status quo, such as “Why?”, “Why not?” and “What if?” questions. 

“There are many headwinds facing the business community today, so a leader cannot allow their team to merely do what they normally do just a little bit better. That can lead to a sense of ‘treading water.’ In my experience, the answers are already in the room, so a leader must establish a safe environment for team members to exchange bold ideas that lead to growth.” 

6. Be proactive

Finally, the most important step you can take to become a more strategic-thinking leader is to take initiative, according to Roggero: “Always be ready to act on something before anyone else.” This is also how you lead by example, after all, and you’ll definitely want to encourage your team to think strategically too.