The 6 Key Elements of Strategic Thinking Skills

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When you hear the word strategy, what kind of person comes to mind?

I always imagine a master chess player for several reasons:

  1. They spent years practicing, winning, failing, researching, and reflecting to hone their skills. Each game they played on their journey, whether they emerged the champion or not, was a new opportunity to take risks and try new moves. 
  2. They are someone who is constantly thinking several steps ahead of their opponent, anticipating their next move while remaining present enough to react to what’s happening on the board at any given moment. 
  3. They’re tasked with the organization and progression of sixteen individual pieces, divided into six teams, each bringing a different skill or ability to the table. 
  4. When necessary, they’re willing to sacrifice a few pieces along the way for the sake of the big picture. 

Much like chess, running a business requires strategic thinking skills or the ability to analyze a range of variables to solve problems, pursue opportunities, and outsmart the competition. 

This leadership skill is the cross-section of quantitative analysis and qualitative evidence, requiring creativity and data to work side-by-side in the pursuit of creating a thriving business. 

The Six Components of Strategic Thinking Skills

Many business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs are natural strategic thinkers, but there’s always room to grow. 

As you read about the six components of strategic thinking, ask yourself where your strengths and weaknesses lie. 

Anticipate

Vigilance is a must-have skill for strategic thinkers. As they go about the day-to-day minutiae, they constantly have one eye on the horizon to see what’s next. 

Rather than waiting for problems or opportunities to present themselves, they take a more proactive approach by predicting what’s coming and position themselves at the cutting edge of industry trends.

Align

Strategic thinkers have an uncanny knack for finding common ground. They are nimble in negotiations and willing to concede their agenda when it’s for the betterment of the whole business. 

Strategic thinking leaders are also excellent communicators. They speak with purpose and intention, carefully considering how their message will be received. They don’t leave their intentions and motivations up to interpretation and expect others to do the same. 

Challenge

Conventional thinking is the enemy of strategy, as it allows business leaders to fall back on tradition rather than facing the challenges that come naturally with change. That’s why strategic thinkers aren’t afraid to push back against those who say, “But we’ve always done it this way.” 

They also understand and welcome the risk of innovation, so long as there’s a purpose behind it. Teams under strategic thinkers are often divergent thinkers who break the mold, using their failures and victories as jumping points for new ideas. 

Decide 

Strategic leaders know that it is their responsibility to take decisive action when necessary, relying on empirical and anecdotal evidence to choose the path that supports the goals of the business. They are also adept at calling on the right people to help push the decision towards success. 

When things go wrong, they can justify their choice with confidence by pinpointing where reality deviated from the anticipated outcome and refrain from playing “the blame game.”

Interpret

When dealing with the balancing act of running a business, leaders are constantly interpreting information that is often ambiguous or incomplete. Rather than taking everything at face value, they dig in and attempt to break down complex situations into more manageable pieces. 

Strategic thinking leaders also have to consider both the macro-and micro-scale by using the small details as puzzle pieces that come together to form the bigger picture. 

Learn

Strategic thinking requires risk, experimentation, and the active pursuit of opportunities to learn something new. 

Business leaders must create a work culture that emphasizes the value of curiosity and inquiry, where failure is seen as a tool rather than a setback. To achieve this, they must be willing to encourage innovation, reward effort, and invest in their employees’ ideas. 

It’s also crucial to engage in reflective practices– whether alone or with a trusted mentor– as the process can reveal unseen gems of knowledge and wisdom that can shape your approach to future business ventures. 

Are You Skilled at Strategic Thinking?

As you were reading, did you identify with any of the components more so than others? 

Even the best business leaders fall short in areas where others thrive, but the key is being willing to improve yourself and your business continually. 

Executive and leadership coaching is an invaluable tool to help you attain better strategic thinking skills in a safe, high-accountability environment. Through conversations, reflection, and real-world practice, Catalyst Group ECR can help you cultivate your ability to lead your business. 

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