Whether starting a business and spending the initial days building the product, doing the books and working the phones, or starting in an entry-level position before progressing through the ranks, most leaders started by doing “the work.” As the business or the manager’s career grows, so does the need to transition from the day-to-day to being “strategic.”
In a recent Inc. magazine article, Wharton School professor Paul J. H. Schoemaker says being strategic is hard mainly because so many don’t know what it means or what it entails. Schoemaker spent the past two decades studying this subject and has concluded that strategic leaders exhibit six habits:
Anticipate. Instead of only focusing on what is directly in front of them, strategic leaders utilize “peripheral vision,” watching beyond the current boundaries of the business and building wide external networks.
Think Critically. Strategic leaders don’t bow to conventional wisdom. Instead, they ask questions to find root causes, challenge current mindsets and uncover bias in organizational decision making.
Interpret. Strategic leaders avoid the dangers of ambiguity by synthesizing information from a wide variety of sources before developing a viewpoint.
Decide. Strategic leaders strike a balance between speed, rigor, quality and agility in order to take a stand even with imperfect information and diverse viewpoints, and to avoid “analysis paralysis.”
Align. Strategic leaders recognize that total consensus is rare and utilize open dialogue and establish trust to align stakeholders.
Learn. Strategic leaders realize that both success and failure are valuable sources of organizational learning, encouraging honest and rigorous feedback and celebrating both success and well-intentioned failures that provide insight.
Source: Paul J. H. Schoemaker is the founder and chairman of Decision Strategies International, as well as a speaker, professor and entrepreneur. He has also served as research director at the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at The Wharton School of Business, where he teaches strategic decision making. His latest book is Brilliant Mistakes.