Strategic skills sounds like they’re really hard to learn. You need to be an Executive, don’t you? No. You can develop strategic skills too, and they 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 use their time to focus on what really leads to improvement.
What does it mean to be more strategic?
Summit Leadership has a good definition of what a strategic leader looks like. Being a strategic leader has very little to do with being an Executive or creating complicated business strategies. In fact, some of the least strategic leaders I’ve worked with are often in senior positions.
Being more strategic isn’t hard, but it does need effort. Leaders who have good strategic skills show the following behaviours:
- 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 aim to improve and future-proof their teams.
- Strategic leaders don’t waste their time. They know they can’t do everything. So they focus on doing the right things.
6 strategic skills you can develop today
Strategic skills are not rocket science. Being more strategic is achievable for any leader that wants it.
1. Knowing how to prioritise
Prioritising your workload is a key strategic skill. Don’t use a complex process, 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 might delegate it. All of a sudden, you have some free time.
2. Knowing when you need to be involved
Another key strategic skill is understanding where you add the most value. Leaders don’t need to involve themselves in everything their team does. 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 leave to somebody else to handle.
3. Knowing how to manage up
One of the most important strategic skills is know how to manage up. Strategic leaders don’t say “Yes” all the time. They push back on people when they need to and say “No”. If you say “Yes” all the time, you’re going to be overwhelmed in the long run.
4. Knowing when to delegate responsibility, not just tasks
Delegation isn’t just about tasks. Sometimes, you can delegate responsibility 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. Knowing how to resource your team properly
Having the right people in your team is a strategic skill in itself. If you don’t have the right skills in your team, you’ll never be able to take advantage of opportunities. You’ll be playing catch-up, because you don’t have the right skills, or enough people.
Make sure you have the people to handle the workload, and the tasks that your team needs to perform to keep improving.
6. Being aware of the outside world
Leaders with good strategic skills understand what’s going on around them. Keep an eye out for industry trends or 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, it might leave you behind.
Changes are opportunities, not something you need to be scared of.
There you have it. Strategic skills are not rocket science, but they are important. Being more strategic is something every leader can achieve, it’s not reserved for the few at the very top of the ladder.