Strategic leadership must be learned. It does not come naturally. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself about the characteristics that you want to manifest in order to become a better leader. We have summarized a few things that you need to embody to become a strategic leader, but beforehand, let’s find out what strategic leadership really means.
What is Strategic Leadership?
Strategic leadership is the ability to anticipate, dream, maintain flexibility, think strategically, and work with others to initiate changes that will create a better future for the organization. There are some important things (as well as characteristics) that you need to incorporate in order to build this ability within yourself.
How to Become A Strategic Leader
Here are seven essential elements that you need to implement in order to become a great leader in your organization.
1. Build Strong Communication
Strategic leadership would be impossible to be implemented without effective communication. You may have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve, but if you can’t convey it well to your team or colleagues, your goals will be almost impossible to realize.
If you don’t convey your objectives clearly, your team will be confused about what they have to do, and misunderstandings will most likely occur. You may not expect other people to understand your intentions if you do not convey them clearly yourself.
As a leader, it’s mandatory for you to unify your entire team. Explain your objectives comprehensively to your team without haste. Allow each team member to ask and give their feedback.
To support you in creating effective communication within the organization, use an ERP system that integrates all departments. With this system, each and everyone in your organization will be able to collaborate with each other and utilize information from the same source.
2. Be A Good Listener
Although communicating your expectations effectively is one of the most essential characteristics of strategic leadership, it’s also critical to listen to what your team has to say. Not all leaders are good listeners in spite of being good speakers.
Take the time to hear complaints or issues faced by your employees. Not only does this help build morale, but it also makes your organization better, because you get input from those who are on the front lines.
Leaders who listen to their employees are always more successful, because they gain the knowledge needed to solve problems, improve products or services, and build a strong corporate culture.
3. Have Passion & Commitment
Enthusiasm for your mission or project will get your employees excited, because they can see and feel your dedication. But, having passion alone is not enough. You need to add commitment to it. Commitment is the ability to stay focused on what will make you successful.
In order for these tips to work effectively, you must start implementing them and set an example for your employees. Team motivation significantly improves when employees see their boss working alongside them, putting in the same level of effort (or more) than everyone else.
When you show your employees that as a leader, you work hard just like they do, you prove your commitment and earn the respect of your team.
4. Think & Act Positive
If your team is led and surrounded by happy and positive people, they will work harder and more happily. Positivity can take many forms at work – from greeting your staff kindly, to sending them encouraging messages by email. Of course, there has to be a balance between playtime and productive time, but do your best to create a positive and supportive environment during work hours.
Some leaders focus too much on what is lacking in their business, without recognizing the achievements made by their team. You certainly need to be aware of problems, but you also have to take the time to notice things that are going well and celebrate the success of the team and yourself.
5. Show Empathy in the Workplace
You don’t have to be a therapist in your organization. Having empathy means that you try to understand your team’s problems by walking in their shoes. Practicing empathy creates strong connections, because you develop an awareness of the challenges and needs of the team or department instead of being oblivious to what is going on around you.
In addition to interpersonal benefits, empathy is also a practical tool to help you meet your objectives. When you truly understand what is needed to carry out the strategy – skills, resources, projects, etc. – you will be able to set more realistic goals and timelines.
For example, the marketing team might need an internal web developer to enhance the company’s website, or the sales team might need an updated CRM system to hit their targets. If these needs are listened to, considered, and then met, your employees will feel more valued and their work will be completed more easily.
Leaders who empathize will earn the respect of their employees and are more likely to succeed in carrying out organizational strategies, because they know exactly what is needed to get the job done.
6. Infuse Your Company Culture with Humility
Humility is one of the most respected strategic leadership characteristics. Humble leaders admit their mistakes, apologize when necessary, and express their appreciation. This behavior makes you more “humane” and pleasant. It is also the best practice for empowering and respecting others.
Practice humility not only with other people, but with your planning and processes. This means acknowledging that you don’t know everything and that some of the best strategies are flawed. By being open to learning and leaving your ego behind, you are ready to help your organization adapt and rise to a higher level.
7. Master the Art of Tact & Diplomacy
Honesty is always the best policy, but strategic leadership often requires you to be wise. Diplomacy is a learned skill that helps leaders manage conflict effectively using negotiation and sensitivity. It needs an unbiased and strategic approach to problem solving. As defined by Henry Kissinger, diplomacy is “the art of enhancing power.”
When planning and implementing strategies, disagreements and conflicting priorities is inevitable. Having different perspectives ultimately strengthen your organization, but sometimes this is difficult to manage in the short term. Strategic leadership enables you to navigate these difficulties and turn them into mutually beneficial situations whenever possible.