3 Steps to Improve Your Strategic Leadership Skills

Feb 28, 2014
4 Min Read

Arguably, the two key leadership abilities are deciding on what the right thing to do is and getting others on board. This requires timely and effective decision making skills and setting a vision for others. To truly excel at these, leaders need to have a global perspective and a strategic view.

Step 1: Know Your Business

To avoid over-relying on your technical, functional, or professional expertise, hone an interest in the general business as a whole. Develop a thirst for learning the external and internal business environment and keeping perspective on what truly matters. This is the prerequisite for a strategic perspective—your homework—so to speak.

Take time to understand:

  • How your company makes money
  • Your competitive advantage—what attracts your customers
  • Where your industry is headed
  • Your organization’s strategic plan and priorities

Talk to your customers and your key production groups to understand what is in their heads. Think about how the different pieces of your organization integrate and collaborate. Keep track of what you don’t know and the questions you have, and work to find answers. (Then, document and share the information with others.)

Step 2: Improve Your Decision-Making

Once you have the knowledge, you must apply it appropriately. Good decision-making is based on a combination of analysis, experience, wisdom, and judgment. There is also a timeliness factor: finding the right balance of giving it enough thought, but not overanalyzing… and being responsive, but not hasty.

Be aware of some common biases, errors, stereotypes, and assumptions that can affect the quality of your decisions. For example:

  • Similar-to-me effect (favoring those who look, act, think like you)
  • Confirmation bias (remembering only the facts that support your viewpoint)
  • Halo effect (allowing one very positive or negative item to overshadow your opinion)
  • Hindsight bias (wrongly perceiving past events as predictable, “I knew it!”)
  • And many more

Step 3: Inspire Others

The final step is the leadership piece. If you stop at knowledge and good decisions, it only makes you an effective individual contributor. To lead, you must encourage the same in others.

Getting others on board is as simple as clearly communicating the vision and mission and doing some simple change management.

Highlights of effective inspirational communication:

  • Creating an aspirational vision, even though the future may be unknown
  • Optimistic, with a focus on possibilities
  • Passionate so that it energizes others
  • Simple and clear, so it can be recalled and restated easily

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