Strategic leadership sounds really hard. You probably need to have a PhD or at least an MBA from a prestigious university right? You need to be sitting in the C-suite too, don’t you? Nope. You can be more strategic too, and it will help you be a better leader.
It doesn’t matter what type of leader you are. You don’t even need to be in a leadership role. Everybody can be more strategic and see the benefits.
What does it mean to be more strategic?
Summit Leadership has a nice definition of what a strategic leader looks like. For me, being a strategic leader has very little to do with being an executive or creating complex business strategies. In fact, some of the least strategic leaders I’ve worked with are often in senior positions.
Being more strategic isn’t complex, but it does require certain behaviours. Leaders who are more strategic have the following characteristics:
- Strategic leaders are proactive, not reactive
- Strategic leaders are intentional in their actions, words and behaviour. What they achieve isn’t just by luck.
- Strategic leaders look to improve and future-proof their teams and organisations
- Strategic leaders use their time effectively. They know they can’t do everything. So they focus on doing the right things.
Why you need to be more strategic
Being more strategic can drastically improve your leadership. And again, this isn’t just for the executive team or the chairman of the board, this is for you and me as well.
Be more strategic to stop being “busy”
Ever worked with a leader who is “busy” all the time? Not only do they rush around frantically, they tend to like to make a show of it. These leaders are stuck in what I like to call the “busyness mindset”.
The busyness mindset is a state of mind where you believe that because somebody is busy, they are more important, and more effective. Unfortunately, nothing is further from the truth. Just because you are rushed off your feet every day, does not mean you are being effective. You might just be wasting a lot of time. Be more strategic to stop being just “busy”.
When you snap out of the busyness mindset, you find that you focus on different things. You spend your time on the things that matter and you get rid of the things that don’t.
Be more strategic to start improving your team
Once you get rid of the busyness mindset, you start to free up some time to think to the future. You can begin to look at your team and start to build their skills to cover skill gaps. Or perhaps you need to develop your team in order to take advantage of upcoming industry trends.
Remember that if you aren’t improving, you’re stagnating. Being more strategic helps you prepare your team for the future. It leads to development opportunities for your team and ensures you have the skills to take advantage of the movements happening in your industry. Not only is this beneficial for you, it helps your team learn, grow, stay motivated and build skills that will help their future career.
Consistently looking to improve your team will help you when times are tough, because you haven’t been stagnating. If you always look to improve, it’s likely your team is more efficient and effective than those around you. This can also help you when you are in the midst of inevitable “right-sizing” initiatives in your workplace.
How to be more strategic
To be more strategic, as with many things I write about, is not rocket science. Not many of you may know this, but I’m not a rocket scientist, or even a genius. Sure I’ve been to university a time or two, but that’s all irrelevant. Being more strategic is achievable for any leader that puts their mind to it.
1. Prioritise your tasks
Don’t use a complex method, start with “Must Do” tasks and “Won’t Do” tasks. That’s it. No more categories. Decide what you must do, and what you’re going to stop doing. When you stop a task, it might mean you stop it altogether, or you may delegate it. All of a sudden, there is some free time.
2. Determine what you need to be involved in, and what you don’t
Leaders don’t need to oversee or do everything in their teams. You need to know when to get out of the detail and let your team run things. Go through your task list and work out what you really need to be involved in and what you can stop doing.
3. Learn to Manage Up and push back
Strategic leaders don’t say “Yes” all the time. They push back on people when they need to and say “No”. They even do this to their bosses when they have to. If you say “Yes” all the time, you’re going to be in for trouble in the long run. You can read more about Managing Up in the Thoughtful Leader guide here.
4. Delegate accountability, not just tasks
Delegation isn’t just about tasks. Sometimes, you can delegate accountability in your team to others. Not only does this provide growth opportunities for your team, it frees up some of your time. Let go, and let others run take charge of things when it makes sense.
5. Resource your team properly
If your team isn’t resourced properly, you’ll never be able to take advantage of opportunities that arise. You’ll be playing catch-up, because you don’t have the right skills or capacity. Make sure you have the personnel to handle the workload, and the tasks that your team needs to perform to keep improving.
6. Monitor the world outside
To be more strategic means knowing what’s going on around you. Keep an eye out for industry trends or emerging technologies that may help you and your team perform better. The world outside is changing and if you don’t keep an eye on it, you might just be left behind.
There you have it. Not rocket science, but extremely important. Being more strategic is something every leader can achieve, it’s not reserved for the few at the very top of the ladder.