Most organisations have leaders who are responsible for handling various operational requirements. These leaders can consult specific managers, supervisors, heads-of-department and more in the course of these duties. The list is endless. 

However, those same businesses are starting to understand the true value of a strategic leader. Someone who can take control of ‘exceptional’ circumstances, draw from their experience and tactical skill set, and address complex, multi-faceted problems methodically.

Strategic thinkers are critical to the success of any business, and whether a specific title is assigned to an employee or not, the demand for leaders who possess this capability is increasing. 

If you’re looking to enhance your strategic leadership abilities or would like to know how to foster an environment conducive to strategic thinking within your workplace, this blog post will help you explore ways to incorporate strategic leadership effectively.

What is strategic leadership?

Strategic leadership is a style of leadership in which a leader expresses a strategic vision for the business (or part of the business) and motivates teams to acquire the same vision. The vision guides the operation and decision-making of the different teams in the business, who use their skills, qualities, and knowledge to keep the business financially stable and work productively towards achieving the vision.

Strategic thinking is a key trait associated with great leaders. It’s the fundamental ability you might call upon when if you’re trying to improve your strategic leadership capabilities. 

The ability to lead strategically is a learned skill. You’ll need to study the key characteristics you want to enhance to improve your strategic leadership ability.

What makes strategic leadership one of the best leadership styles?

In an earlier post, we discussed the seven main leadership theories, which detail the traits and characteristics that the different styles of leadership entail. What, however, makes strategic leaders some of the best?

A strategic leader is able to challenge multiple viewpoints without inciting arguments. Their tactical mindset allows them to focus on the ‘bigger picture’ but still account for the minor details that factor into achieving overarching goals. They lead with an inquisitive mindset, and engage frequently and effectively, all while conducting themselves respectfully and humbly.

Any organisation would benefit from this type of leader. Their actions illustrate how to do things, promote cohesion and decisiveness, and these leaders understand all the components of a successful project. These are the types of leaders who work to achieve clear results, improve the working environment, and you can trust them to act in the best interest of all stakeholders at all times.

How to foster strategic leadership in the workplace

You’ll need to build your team up to their full potential by providing support and resources that will enable them to become the future generation of leaders. Below are some practical ways to foster strategic leadership in the workplace.

Mentor and coach your team(s)

This may seem obvious, but mentorship and coaching are vital to foster a strategic leadership environment.

Many managers are caught up in daily activities, focussing their time and energy on completing ‘to-do’ lists. Step back from that focus to engage with your team. Pinpoint their strategic traits and qualities.

This will allow you to help them develop their own skills and knowledge, and ultimately, free up valuable time in your schedule.

Invest in your team

This ties in with mentorship and coaching but refers more specifically to structured professional development courses. Perhaps you’ve identified a star team member who needs some support in developing their skills and broadening their knowledge.

Put a business case forward to invest in this team member.

Consider carefully who stands to gain the most from executive coaching, in house training, or specialised programmes. By providing this resource, you’ll be enabling your team to deliver better work, but also empowering them to take on a more decisive, leading role.

Foster an inquisitive environment

An inquisitive mindset will trigger engagement and support clear communications across the organisation. If you’re unsure of something, even in a managerial capacity, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek solutions from your team.

Being transparent and showing you don’t have all the answers (but you’re willing to find them) will encourage your team to ask their own questions without fear of judgement. If a team member can answer your questions, be sure to give credit where it’s due when you successfully meet more objectives.

Pave the way forward

Whether the business has rigid processes to follow or relies on last-minute work to complete projects, there’s a good chance you’ll have had to navigate your own way through ‘how things are done.’ Instead of expecting the same from your team, be the leader who helps them navigate those obstacles more effectively.

By sharing your own experiences and insights, you’ll remove a major aspect of uncertainty and make their role much easier.  Allow your team to focus on the important things, and support them so they understand the subtleties and nuances of the business.

This will also go a long way in laying the foundations for excellent working relationships between yourself and your team.

Reward strategic thinking

Once your team understands your objective of reaching a level where all actions and processes are strategic, you can start to reward evidence of their application of this crucial skill. Reward, acknowledge, and encourage your team when they demonstrate strategic thinking.

This will transform the team mentality from reactive to proactive and will create more opportunities for them to anticipate and avoid problematic situations. The shift will lessen the need for crisis management — something from which all organisations could benefit. 

Apply strategy to new hires

When expanding the team, start to assess potential strategic leaders from the screening and interviewing stage. Ask pertinent questions that will allow you to gain an idea of their ability or inclination to think strategically.

You might want to set a specific task that seeks to identify potential markers for a natural strategic capability. Finding new hires who already possess some skills or traits of a strategic leader will help towards the overall objective of creating a strategic thinking environment. Bear in mind that even potential strategic thinkers may still need investment, support, and guidance from you as their leader.

However, hiring someone who has the ambition to accomplish the goals you’ve envisaged will make it much easier to achieve those objectives.

Develop your leadership style with In Professional Development

The working world is full of many types of leaders. Some people are born with a natural ability, whereas others have identified a certain leadership quality within themselves and worked hard to enhance it. Most strategic leaders have committed to learning specific leadership techniques and applying them to advance their careers — and we’re here to help you use this same style of leadership to unlock your career potential. 

Our strategic leadership masterclass introduces a range of leadership approaches and theories, with a focus on the application of these in the organisation to boost performance. We’ll identify these challenges to new and emerging leaders and help to develop your decision-making ability by offering new options and approaches based on sound and proven theories.

Whatever path you’ve taken in your career, we’re here to support you in achieving your career aspirations. We offer various online courses through our virtual classroom, in house training that is well suited to larger groups, as well as specialised executive programmes designed to support you in your professional career.

Our team is available to discuss your unique requirements and help you find the best course for you. Contact them today by filling in this form.

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