Effective Leaders Make Time to Think Strategically

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Great leaders build great strategies that people can commit to.

But the kind of strategic thinking that generates a clear, believable and implementable direction takes time. To lead well, leaders must set aside time to think strategically, systemically and laterally. The best leaders don’t just do…they reflect about the short- and long-term consequences of the company’s plans and are able to make far-reaching decisions in the midst of uncertainty.

As a leader, make sure you have time to reflect on the past, consider the current situation and look at different scenarios for the future. Here are some of the questions you should be asking if you are in charge of charting your organization’s future success:

  • Does everything we are doing make sense together?
    Look at all aspects of your business and evaluate your different activities against how much value they bring. If you are a company that makes printers, does it make sense to still be selling printer cartridges? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s important to have a sound rationale for continuing along the same business lines. One activity should complement the other in a way that the sum is greater than the parts.
  • Does the way we do business fit with our overall strategy?
    Alignment of strategy and organizational culture account for up to 40% of the difference between high and low performing organizations. If you are a company that succeeds through the collaborative efforts of teams, make sure your organizational structure does not reward individual contributions over reaching team goals. One way to approach this question is to think about how you would build the company if you were to start all over again based upon how you want to perform at your peak.
  • Do we do the right things for the right reasons?
    When you reflect upon why you do business the way you do, answer the question with something more than, “just because.” History should not dictate your practices, processes and procedures, the future should. Do you, for instance, continue to invest resources in upgrading your retail outlets even though the bulk of your customers reach you now through the internet? Perhaps you should invest more online than in your brick-and-mortar store fronts.
  • Do we make decisions with the future in sight?
    Let’s say that you have decided that, for the short-term, money is better spent online than on your retail facilities. But you need to think, too, about how this will affect your brand promise long-term. Even though customers reach you online, your image is also established by the look of your stores. How would deteriorating stores affect your brand over the long term? How will you maintain brand quality if paint is peeling on your signs on Main Street?

Whenever you sit down to consider the big picture of your business, try to do it from the perspective of someone from the outside looking in. Try to get a fresh, unbiased perspective on what makes sense for your business, your corporate culture, your market and your workforce. Don’t just continue doing business as you always have. Great leaders know that strategy, carefully planned and moving in the right direction, is what drives companies forward toward a successful future.

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