What’s the strategic leadership style? How can you be a strategic thinker as a leader?
Strategic thinkers help their teams grow by analyzing performances and suggesting possibilities for improvement. These types of leaders are open to learning and asking questions to uncover new information.
Let’s look at what it takes to be a strategic leader.
Strategic Thinking as a Leader
In Strengths Based Leadership, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie explain that the strategic leadership style involves being analytical and effective at consultation. For example, if you’re a strategic thinker, you may have an eye for noticing inefficiencies in your team’s performance and formulating an alternative game plan that saves time and increases productivity.
To show what strategic thinking looks like in practice, the authors point to Best Buy’s CEO, Brad Anderson. Anderson started as a sales associate at the Minneapolis-based electronics retailer that would eventually become Best Buy, and as the company grew, he ascended the ranks to CEO. His keys to success are his enthusiasm for learning and ability to ask great questions to uncover critical information. For example, he questioned whether a commission-based sales model was best for their stores, and after surveying customers, he realized this model made customers feel pressured by sales associates. So, he adopted a more relaxed model of browse shopping, where customers could shop fully stocked items at their leisure. This model was widely successful and was adopted by many other retailers soon after.
(Shortform note: Asking good questions isn’t just a great way to gather information on how to improve your company, but it also helps you build relationships (which can, in turn, improve your business, as Anderson’s Best Buy demonstrated in the early 2000s when they redesigned stores to cater to their most lucrative customer types). In Just Listen, Goulston argues that asking thoughtful questions helps people feel interesting and valuable, which makes them appreciative of you. In return, they will typically offer interest in your ideas, which creates an opportunity to influence them. Goulston suggests asking for the other person’s advice about something they might have expertise in or asking about their big-picture goals.)
Actionable: Learn From Everyone
The authors say that if you’re a leader who thinks strategically, you should optimize your innate instinct to learn by recognizing that everyone on your team has something to teach you. Don’t let your pride convince you that your subordinates don’t know as much as you do. Respect peoples’ knowledge by encouraging them to teach you what they know and giving them your full attention when they do.
If you have a strategic thinker on your team, encourage them to satisfy their instinct to learn by giving them opportunities to learn on the job. For example, provide them with resources to study and become an expert on your company’s products and services. Additionally, allow them to teach what they’re learning on the job to other team members.
|Improve Your Meetings to Encourage Strategic Thinking
One way you can encourage strategic thinking on your team is through effective meetings. Meetings can be an opportunity for the strategic thinkers on your team to ask critical questions and propose innovative ideas. However, meetings can also be a drain on creativity and productivity if they aren’t held properly. One survey found that most executives thought meetings interrupt deep, productive work that they accomplish on their own and with groups. Participants also considered most meetings unproductive.
To avoid messy meetings and encourage innovation, follow these steps:
1. Gather your team’s thoughts on previous meetings. By putting this data together through a brief survey or interview process, you’ll know what has worked and what hasn’t in the past.
2. Hold a meeting about—yes, meetings. With the data collected from your team, you can now hold a discussion to interpret it and come up with a future meeting structure and schedule that works better for everyone.
3. Set goals and stick to them. Once decisions are made about how your meetings can improve, keep yourself and others accountable with friendly reminders. For example, if you decide that it’s best to keep meetings under two hours long, give notice to your team as you approach that time mark.
4. Regularly collect feedback. To keep meetings productive and continue to improve them for everyone on your team, send out brief surveys to stay in tune with everyone’s thoughts.