“Most of my day is spent addressing behavior problems and making phone calls to parents,” shared Mr. Guiness, “I can’t get anything done.”
Mr. Guiness ended each week meeting with his leadership team reflecting and creating a list of tasks and objectives for the next week. They were doing all the right things: reflecting, discussing, setting priorities and even scheduling specific times for each task. What was missing? Strategic thinking.
How did they resolve the problem? Strategy. After analyzing the situation, Mr. Guiness made one strategic change. He asked the teachers to call the parents when there was a behavior problem. The teacher had a clearer idea of what had happened, the communication strengthened the teacher/parent relationship and it freed up time for Mr. Guiness.
Strategic leaders not only plan what has to be done, but also how to do them. They navigate the obstacles that pop up. The develop strategies that help reach both short term objectives and long term goals.
Am I a Strategic Leader?
Here are four questions that you should ask yourself to determine if you are a strategic leader:
Question One: Are you able to both clearly define your long term goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them?
Strategic leaders have a deep understanding of what they want to achieve, how they plan to get there, and how they are going to communicate that information clearly and concisely. They have taken the time up front to plan, to explore potential challenges and identify alternative paths. They are concrete in their approach, while at the same time remaining flexible as the plan unfolds and obstacles pop up. The emphasis is on achieving goals not staying married to the plan, if data suggests otherwise.
Question Two: Are you curious?
Effective, strategic leader are curious. They place a high value on learning and staying on top of new information. They verify that information. They plug-in to networks and exchange information with other leaders in their field sharing insights.
They model this behavior for their team and value it in others.
Question Three: Do you engage others in your vision and decision?
Strategic leaders realize they don’t have all the answers. They have confidence in their position and their knowledge, but are not closed minded about hearing other points of view. They seek the opinions of others, they search for new information, and they ask stakeholders for their input. The information is not blindly accepted. It is examined, discussed and applied when appropriate. Change is about getting other to follow you—involving others in the crafting of a vision and the implementation of that vision is the sign of a strategic leader.
Question Four: Do you base your decisions on data, not opinion?
Strategic leaders use data and allow the data to speak for itself. They follow that data to where it leads looking for unbiased solutions. When data is shared, examined, and used the process is transparent.
One caveat—in these days of technology leaders run the risk of participating in information glut. Information overload results, more times than not, in paralysis, not forward movement. Strategic leaders identify the key data points that are most closely aligned with their vision and plan.
Strategic thinking is must for a leader who wants to be effective. It is not enough to have a vision or even a plan. Leaders must have a strategy. Strategic leaders:
- Can clearly and concisely define their vision and their plan
- Are curious, life-long learners. They embrace information.
- Engage others in the process by being open to input, seeing it as an asset not annoyance
- Use data to guide their decision