Strategic Leadership Skills that Matter Most

Strategic Leadership Skills that Matter Most
Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

When Strategic Leadership Skills Are Required for Success
Just as it takes a different set of skills to transition from an individual contributor to a successful new manager, it takes a different mindset and skillset (what we call Strategic Leadership Skills) to succeed as a strategic leader. While both operational and strategic leadership roles are critical to growing a business, we know from leadership simulation assessment data that they each require different leadership approaches and competencies.

Strategic versus Operational Leadership
In general, operational leaders are charged with defining and executing operational plans to ensure that the day-to-day functions of the organization meet short-term corporate goals and accountabilities. Operational leaders usually focus on relatively short time horizons, tactical issues, and low levels of risk.  They are critical to running an efficient team or function.

The role of strategic leaders is different. Strategic leaders have a broader charter. They must see and connect employees to the big picture — not only how functional areas interconnect and impact each other, but also how the overall business strategy needs to evolve to meet future challenges. Strategic leaders need to be masters of looking around corners, leading change, and modeling continuous learning.

Leading Strategically Requires Strategic Leadership Skills
For an organization to keep performing at a high level, you need leaders who can think and act strategically. One way to assess strategic leadership readiness is to see if your leaders can consistently:

  1. Formulate a Concrete Vision
    Strategic leaders can create and vividly communicate a clear and compelling strategic vision for success that resonates with key stakeholders.  That requires strategic leadership skills to:

    — Formulate a concrete vision of where you want to go
    Communicate the strategy in a vivid way that gets others excited
    — Create a vision that appeals to followers’ personal values and needs
    — Set long-term goals that span 3 to 5 years
  2. Set Strategic Priorities
    Strategic leaders consistently identify a manageable set of strategic priorities based on a logical analysis of the current situation.  That requires strategic leadership skills to select strategic priorities that:

    — Follow logically from the gathered information
    — Add significant value and create competitive advantage
    — Are manageable and implementable given your unique circumstances
  3. Take a Strategic Perspective
    Strategic leaders are adept at scanning the broad environment inside and outside the organization to gain strategic insights.  That requires strategic leadership skills to:

    — Ask targeted questions that require deeper analysis
    — Find common themes across multiple sources of complex information
    — Combine seemingly unrelated information to gain a strategic insight
  4. Make Tough Decisions
    Strategic leaders are great decision makers.  Especially when the stakes are high, they:

    — Clarify the decision to be made and the desired outcomes before moving to action
    — Act decisively and avoid common decision making traps and biases
    — Communicate decisions for greater commitment and buy-in

The Bottom Line
Are you prepared as a leader to take on the challenge of leading strategically? It takes a mindset that can solve problems, make decisions despite an uncertain future, prioritize the most critical actions, and communicate the big picture so that the workforce is ready and able to drive the plan forward.

To learn more about becoming a strategic leader, download How Strategic Clarity Distinguishes High Performing Leaders – The Elite 6%

Evaluate your Performance


Get key strategy, culture, and talent tools from industry experts that work


Health Checks

Assess how you stack up against leading organizations in areas matter most



Download published articles from experts to stay ahead of the competition



Review proven research-backed approaches to get aligned



Stay up to do date on the latest best practices that drive higher performance


Client Case Studies

Explore real world results for clients like you striving to create higher performance