According to a study conducted by Management Research Group evaluating the leadership practices and effectiveness of over 60,000 managers and executives, a strategic approach to leadership was 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other leadership behaviors. This strategic focus was twice as important as communication and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors.
Strategic leaders take a broad, long-range approach to problem solving and decision-making that involves objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning. They think in multiple time frames, identifying what needs to be accomplished over time and what has to happen now, in six months, in a year, and in three years. It means thinking systemically, and identifying the impact of their decisions on various segments of the organization.
Here are some ways leaders can help their direct reports think strategically:
Encourage them to set aside regular time for strategic planning;
Provide information on the market, the industry, customers, competitors and new technologies that influence your business, exposing relevant and broad business information to help direct reports elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day;
Keep them informed on what is happening internally by sharing information across boundaries, allowing them to see the organization from a global perspective;
Connect them with a mentor known for keeping people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of actions on the broader organizational strategy;
Communicate a well-articulated philosophy, mission and goal statement throughout the organization, allowing them to understand the broader organizational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies;
Reward direct reports for evidence of creating a culture in which problems are anticipated and avoided to discourage crisis management.
Leaders who empower their direct reports to think strategically experience more success.