What are strategic thinking skills? Are they important for effective leadership?
If you are wondering why effective leadership is a crucial part of a company’s success and profit, you should go deeper into its root, what defines inspirational leadership, or what element contributes to a leader’s influence. The secret lies in strategic thinking. Mastering strategic thinking skills is not easy but there’re always noble ways to do it. So what strategic thinking means, why it is important and how to practice it in a leadership position, let’s take the plunge.
Table of Contents
- What are Strategic Thinking Skills?
- #1. Analytical Skill
- #2. Critical Thinking
- #3. Problem-solving
- #4. Cognitive Flexibility
- #5. Attention to Details
- What do strategic thinking skills mean for leadership?
- FMI strategic thinking model
- Benefits of strategic thinking
- What are the 5 key elements of strategic thinking?
- How to practice strategic thinking in a leadership position?
- The Bottom Line
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What are Strategic Thinking Skills?
Strategic thinking is the process of analyzing various factors that might influence the outcomes of a plan or project before making a decision. People think strategically when they must consider a range of possibilities of both opportunities and risks before taking a final action. It also emphasizes the capability to review and optimize a plan to adapt to the dynamic and ongoing changes of the environment both internal and external.
People sometimes confuse the concept of strategic thinking with strategic planning. Strategic planning starts with strategic thinking before taking an action. Strategic thinking is looking for answers for the question why” and the “what” of the work you want to complete. In contrast, strategic planning is a further step of answering “how” and the “when” of the implementation process.
When it comes to strategic thinking, it is necessary to mention its skill set. There are five essential skills that support your strategic thinking process.
#1. Analytical Skill
Analytical skill describes the ability to gather and analyze information to solve the crisis and make effective decisions. Analytical skill is used to detect problems, brainstorm, observe, collect, interpret data and consider multiple factors and options available. Strong analytical thinking skill is shown when the person can think of possible major achievements and breakthroughs.
#2. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is often the vital step in the strategic thinking process and helps develop a strategic mindset. It is an innovative technique to identify issues or areas for improvement by questioning and making a judgment about what you read, hear, say, or write. It forces you to think clearly and rationally before accepting any fact or argument result.
Broad strategic thinking involves problem-solving skills which impose efficacy on individuals in addressing problems and finding an ultimate solution. It is essential for strategic thinkers to start seeing a problem from the root and collaborate with others to consider a wide range of solutions before moving to the next step.
#4. Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility can switch their thinking, quickly adapt to a new environment, look at issues from multiple perspectives or conceive multiple concepts simultaneously. Strategic thinking starts with curiosity and flexibility to develop new concepts and learn from experiences either good or bad. Strategic thinkers rarely stop adjusting their management and old mindset and consider changes as positivity. They are likely to show their respect for cultural diversity and gain inspiration from them simultaneously.
#5. Attention to Details
Strategic thinking starts with meticulous observation, in the other words, attention to detail. It refers to the ability to focus on all the areas involved no matter how trivial it is while allocating time and resources efficiently. It aims to fulfill the tasks with thoroughness and accuracy.
What do strategic thinking skills mean for leadership?
A huge gap between a normal employee and a managerial level and even to a director-level role is the quality of your strategic thinking. An effective leadership and management cannot lack strategic thinking skills. You may have heard about strategic leadership, it is the broader area of strategic thinking as great leaders often think strategically outside-in direction from the external factors such as market, competition and lastly, organizational internal factors.
FMI Strategic Thinking Model
The FMI Strategic Thinking Model promotes 8 competencies that account for successfully strategic leadership include:
- Mental flexibility is best for the changing context, questioning the initial resources, and thinking in an unfocused way.
- Intellectual curiosity can be used as a tool for examining some new issues or topics and questioning random facets of the world.
- Creativity might be used to gain expertise and take risks as well as eliminating negative attitudes.
- Intuition can be practiced to increase a chance to gather deep learning about an issue and boost quick thinking
- Analysis requires the use of analytical skills such as paying very strict attention to data and information, which might help to train your brain to think more logically.
- System thinking encourages addressing problems in a holistic approach and the cause effect relationship among different variables, how they interact with and impact each other.
- Information gathering is the starting point of analyzing the problem. It can be strengthened by focusing on information sources and staying flexible if encountering unexpected outcomes.
- Decision making process can be more effective if it starts with outlining possible solutions or options and making evaluations and weighing risks of each option or solutions before making the final decision.
Benefits of developing strategic thinking skills in a leadership position
When applying strategic thinking in an organizational strategic management process, it can promote competitive advantage for a firm or organization by generating new insights and emerging opportunities for business success. A leader possessing strategic thinking skills can inculcate a noble systems thinking approach and empower yourself to think more innovative and out of the box, but always attaching with business goals.
In addition, here are some additional benefits of developing strategic thinking skills in a leadership position
- Assist team in identifying different possibilities for accomplishing the same objectives
- Lower the risk of inconsistencies or chaos
- Seize more opportunities to learn from experience and co-workers
- Utilize feedback constructively to enhance tactics and make them more sustainable.
- Acclimate to rapidly evolving contexts and employ your outstanding ideas
- Help your team stay flexible and confident as well as be active to face crisis with backup plan
- Get your job well-done and get further promotion
What are the 5 key elements of strategic thinking?
The concept of strategic thinking is well explained under Dr. Liedtka research. It comprises 5 key elements that fully define strategic thinking that can be a good reference for businessmen and leaders.
#1. Intent focused is determined to understand the connection between individuals and strategic intent as strategic thinking can improve concentration and prevent distraction with psychic energy.
#2. Hypothesis driven indicates testing hypotheses as core activities. Strategic thinking comes with creative and critical prospects. In order to think more creatively, the process of suspending critical judgment with hypothesis generating and examining follow up with questions can help explore new ideas and approaches.
#3. A systems perspective mentions mental models that shape people behavior. Perspective can be understood in both vertical and horizontal system as they refer to the importance of personal level and their relationship with the whole business via multiple dimensions.
#4. Intelligent opportunism refers to the way people face new experiences with an open-minded mindset, which allows leaders to make use of alternative strategies from low level employees. Giving equality for all people to share their voice can foster faster adaptation toward a rapidly changing business environment.
#5. Thinking in Time is a reminder that new innovation is updated every second. You will never catch up to your competitors if you fail to fill up the gap between the current reality and the intent for the future. In the given limited resources, leaders show their strong strategic thinking skills by balancing resources and ambitions.
How to practice strategic thinking in a leadership position?
You can build a strategic thinking skill set involving 12 following tips:
- Identify realistic and achievable goals
- Ask strategic questions
- Analyze the opportunities and risks
- Observe and Reflect
- Embrace conflict
- Set timelines
- Look for trends
- Always consider alternatives
- Strategic thinking professional development or coach
- Learn from strategic thinking case study
- Build up strategic thinking scenarios
- Learn from strategic thinking books
The Bottom Line
Thinking strategically and tactically is the best way to lead to informed decisions making and actionable plan implementation. It takes time and effort for leaders to cultivate a strategic mindset. But don’t worry if you face difficulty while practicing strategic thinking for the first time.
AhaSlides is an interactive educational tool that can give you a new way to brainstorm and encourage your team to think strategically. Try AhaSlides available templates right away for a more effective strategic thinking skills training program.