Strategic thinking is defined as a mental or thinking process applied by an individual in the context of achieving success in a game or endeavor. As a cognitive activity, it produces thought.
The ultimate goal is to develop strategic agility, or the ability to respond quickly to our changing environment and culture without losing focus on your vision of being effective.
When applied in an organizational strategic management process, strategic thinking involves the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities intended to create competitive advantage for a firm or organization. It can be done individually, as well as collaboratively among key people who can positively alter an organization’s future.
Developing Strategic Thinking
- Balance. Seek to balance the big picture with specific details. This is where strategic thinking diverges from strategic planning. With strategic planning, you set a firm course and stick to it as much as possible, making some allowances for deviation from the plan. Strategic thinking remains focused on the target (big picture) while staying open and flexible to changing what it takes to achieve your goals (details).
- Explore. Strategic thinking requires broadening your horizons and expanding data gathering efforts beyond traditional sources. Think outside the box. Be innovative and inquisitive. Listen and learn.
- Focus. Be very clear on what a target of what success looks like for your organization or team. Effectively communicate a vision of goals and priorities repetitively until everyone is on board.
- Solicit questions. Asking the right questions is imperative especially when you can’t have all the data. Good questions get people to look at the same data differently, so that you get many different perspectives on any given issue.
- Teach. Teach people at all levels strategic thinking skills by anticipating opportunities and threats while managing their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Provide people with the necessary training, coaching, and mentoring to become more responsive to changing environments and needs.
- Vision. Most importantly, strategic thinking requires a daily focus on your vision of success. Keep a vision of the overall objectives even in the face of major challenges and obstacles.
- How do you use strategic thinking in your organization?
- What is your vision for success as a leader?
- What would you add?
Effectiveness as a leader in an organization or on a team requires strategic agility as opposed to strategic planning. Strategic agility is the ability of an organization to stay competitive by stay adapting and adjusting to new innovations to create new methods, products and services. Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy.
At its core, strategic planning involves a process of analysis. Research is focused on what is and what isn’t possible. It’s the process of defining goals, breaking the goals down into manageable steps, and determining how to implement them while identifying the expected consequences of each step. It’s a logical, straightforward process designed to sequentially move the organization from where you are now to where you want to go.
The error of strategic planning is the assumption everything in the world is reasonably stable and somewhat predictable. The environment of out culture today is neither. A traditional planning model also mistakenly assumes products and markets move through their life cycles in a sequential, orderly manner.
It’s impossible to forecast the future months in advance. Therefore, engaging in a lengthy planning process only wastes time and resources. Worse, it gives people who have already embraced strategic thinking a distinct advantage.
There’s a tremendous difference between strategic planning and strategic agility or thinking. Strategic planning is a logical, linear, step-by-step process that focuses on analysis. Strategic thinking engages other parts of our brain in synthesizing in addition to analyzing. It uses intuition, creativity and “what if?” questioning to pull together an integrated perspective from a wide variety of data sources and creates a vision of where the organization needs to go.
Strategic planning has a beginning and an end. It is typically conducted by senior leadership, and usually results in a formal written plan. Strategic thinking never ends. It becomes an integral part of how the organization conducts its business, and needs to be practiced by leaders and teams at all levels.
- How do you approach the strategic development of your organization or team?
- What’s the most effective process of developing a vision with your organization?
- What would you add?
Much time, effort, and money has been dedicated to the study of leadership. Yet there’s little agreement about exactly what defines leadership. However, effective leadership is always easy for people to recognize. Although great leaders may sometimes be born that way, there are certain qualities effective leaders can adopt, practice and share in common.
Qualities of Effective Leaders
- Appreciative. Leaders should have thankful hearts and a constant attitude of praise. Having an attitude of gratitude is contagious. Appreciate people for who they are and the contributions they make. Never take people for granted.
- Dependable. Leaders should be stable, firm and dependable. People see them as confident decision makers who are not blown around by every new idea they hear. They’re not flustered by every conflict that comes their way. Leaders who are constantly changing or compromising are difficult to trust and follow.
- Enthusiastic. People are more willing to be enthusiastic with a leader that has passion. Be passionate about life and people will follow your lead.
- Forgiving. Never harbor grudges or hurts. It does not matter how wrong anybody is in their attitude towards us, and how right we are, we still need to forgive them. Leaders need to forgive themselves also. A leader wallowing in self-pity is no good to anyone.
- Good listeners. Leaders should listen to others in the same way they expect to be listened to. One of the most important aspects of effective leadership is listening. It’s vital to communication and takes up a large percentage of it.
- Peacemakers. A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries. Resolve conflicts. Peacemakers exist to move people from their desperation and need to a place of sustainability and peace. Be content with what you have.
- Skillful. Leaders need to be skillful in what they do. If they’re lacking in any area they need to get training or ask for help. Everything we do should be done with excellence.
- How would you define effective leadership?
- What qualities do you exhibit as an effective leader?
- What would you add?
Leadership is the duty and call of the person who is in charge to take charge with courage and character. It involves the risk of leading people where they need to go and how they need to be led. It’s a position that seeks vision, opportunities, and needs. Effective leadership motivates people to accomplish responsibilities through contributing resources, talents, and time.
Christian leadership is not dependent on a particular personality trait, but on skills that can be learned, even when that spiritual gift or personality is lacking. Learn to delegate. Many leaders get their pride hurt and refuse to let go. No one can do it all. As a church or ministry grows, so must the people grow in leadership, so no one person is running the entire show.
Effective Christian leadership occurs when our lead is derived from Scriptural principles and not from popular trends. Trend based leadership is time-consuming and has been over emphasized as the quintessential aspect of being a leader. Scriptural leadership involves ability, desire and opportunity.
Factors in Christian Leadership
- Ability. Ability is the possession of the means or skill to do something. This has to do with competence. Recognize you have a God-given gift to do something about a need.
- Desire. Desire is strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. This has to do with our passion. Whatever you are passionate about will drive you to step out and meet the need.
- Opportunity. Opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something: Opportunity has to do with timing. Recognize a specific place where you can make a difference.
- How does your leadership reflect Scripture as opposed to popular trends?
- What opportunities are you using to exercise your leadership?
- What would you add?
A vision of what makes a leader is one of the keys to reflecting growth and being an influencing factor as an effective leader. Young leaders in every organization take their cues from those around them by the actions they observe. Realizing this is important for all teams and organizations to ensure they’re identifying and providing appropriate role models.
Being a sharp leader requires remaining on the cutting edge of change and competition. It involves openness to creativity and thinking outside the box. Change is perpetual and only people who are unwilling to accept change will become dull and ineffective.
- Focus on strengths. Correcting weaknesses does not make improvements. Sharp leaders stand out with the presence of great strengths. Although correcting a weakness or fixing a flaw is useful, the best leaders are excellent because of something they accomplished well. Take inventory of your strong points and how to leverage and build on them.
- Love. Demonstrate love, care and concern for people. Leadership is all about helping people to improve and to reach their maximum potential. People don’t care what you know until they know you care. It’s hard to lead effectively if people do not sense that you care. Leadership is a relational skill that depends entirely on how others interact with you. Whether they interact with you through others, or directly, look for opportunities to show that you care.
- Role model. Take responsibility for your actions. Leaders are constantly being observed to determine what is acceptable and what is not. Be impeccable in behavior. People tend to emulate the kind of behavior their leaders live out.
- Think strategically. Never get mired in tasks and forget their purpose. A great litmus test is whether you’re focused on what to do or how something should be done. Strategy is about what to do and tactics are about how to do it. Carve out time each week to think about what needs to be done and why instead of evaluating alternatives.
- What leadership do you need to sharpen?
- How will you demonstrate love for people?
- What would you add?
Cutting edge leaders are a work in progress. No leader ever becomes complete in skills or finished in their assignments. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The sharpening process requires a commitment and resolve to stay sharp in specific areas of expertise. Here are some ways to sharpen your leadership.
Cutting Edge Leaders
- Assert. Sharp leaders step up and become visible. Be polite, but state your position and be firm. Don’t worry about being pushy. Never default to a deferential position when working with superiors and even peers. Be willing to allow for other perspectives, but also actively promote your own.
- Change. Take initiative in a change effort. Nothing says great leadership like leading a positive intentional change for a ministry or organization. There’s not a great deal of leadership required to maintain the status quo.
- Communicate. Communication is the primary tool in language. Primary conflicts in relationships involve communication. Improve your vocabulary and integrate new words and phrases. Use a variety of examples and metaphors to illustrate your points. Remember your tone emphases and non-verbal communication is important as well. It plays a part in how you’re received.
- Engage people. Look people in the eye. Never multi task when engaging with another person. Don’t email or text or pay attention to someone else. Make people feel important by giving to them your undivided attention. Never keep people unnecessarily waiting for you.
- What leadership skills do you need to sharpen?
- How will you use these suggestions to improve your leadership?
- What would you add?
A principle is defined as a personal or specific basis of conduct or management.
Many people consider themselves to be leaders when in reality they’re only managers. The act or art of managing involves conducting or supervising of something such as a business. It’s a judicious use of means to accomplish an end.
The act or art of leadership involves providing direction or guidance to an individual or group of people. Management is about organizations. Leadership is about people and involves vision.
- Establish a clear vision.
- Sharing that vision with people so they’ll follow willingly.
- Providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision
- Coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of everyone involved.
A leader steps up in times of crisis and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership can’t be taught. However, it may be learned and enhanced through coaching and mentoring someone with great leadership skills.
- Decisions. Make sound and timely decisions. Use good problem solving, decision-making, and planning tools.
- Proficient. Be technically proficient. Know your job. Have a solid familiarity with the responsibilities or branch of knowledge of people around you.
- Responsible. Take responsibility for your actions. Search for ways to guide your organization or ministry to new heights. When things fail or go wrong, don’t blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.
- Role model. Set the example. Be a good role model for everyone around you. Help people not only hear what is expected of them but let them see by example.
- Self-Motivated. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. Continually strengthen your attributes. Be committed to self-study, formal classes, reflection, and interacting with others. Be motivated to excellence.
- Study people. Know your people and look out for their well-being. Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for people.
- How do you model leadership?
- What are you doing to be creative and stay motivated as a leader?
- What would you add?