Strategic leaders see things differently from average leaders. They have an additional set of skills – skills of being strategic.
So you are probably asking, “So what’s a strategic leader and what are those “magic” skills?”
A strategic leader understands and shares the vision of the organization in such a way that they persuade and motivate others to join in the accomplishment of that vision.
A good leader might know the vision, but somehow can’t articulate it in such a way that staff self-motivate to come along on the journey. Therefore, a strategic leader creates “aligned” followers.
The first skill of a strategic leader is energizing and engaging others in helping to achieve the organization’s vision. This is true for businesses, like Stephen Jobs who inspired many to be innovative and make money at it. But this isn’t just for money-making enterprises, public and non-profit organizations need an inspiring leader who can marshal the staff together to achieve more than they ever thought possible. Strategic leaders are great communicators.
Strategic leaders also understand how organizations work. I’m not talking just what the organization provides or produces. I’m talking about how organizations work – the processes and structures that influence how we interact, decide, communicate. Strategic leaders know how to improve the existing processes and structures, and also understand which ones to create to achieve the vision. One of the processes they leverage is recognizing people for trying new skills and behaviors in service of that vision.
The third skill of strategic leaders is knowing how and when to influence the culture. The culture is the written (and unwritten) rules that govern what we do and how we do it. The culture for each organization and sub-org is unique. A strategic leader knows what in the culture isn’t serving the long-term needs of the organization, what’s holding it back from achieving the vision. This leader then works on the system to slowly make the changes that are needed. I say slowly because culture cannot be changed quickly. It takes years of persistent effort to change culture.
Strategic leaders are great at harnessing the right people with the right competency mix and the right resources to achieve the vision. They are skilled at effectively and creatively using the existing resources and competencies, plus getting more when needed.
While these skills might not exactly be magic, they certainly are not possessed by every leader. The leaders who learn and apply these skills rise above the crowd – they are strategic leaders.