Developing Strategic Leadership

chess strategy

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a leadership role, there is always something new to learn. It may be related to changes in your industry, more effective management of your team, or how to get your ideas or suggestions more readily accepted and implemented. While good leaders need to support the development of those around them, it’s also vital that they don’t neglect their own advancement. The issues you are facing may be specific to your role or your organisation, but in general there are some well-established approaches that all leaders can employ that will help them make better use of their skills, knowledge and experience, while still offering them the opportunity to learn and achieve further growth.

One of the most important things a leader will need to be able to achieve is a strategic approach that aligns with the goals, vision and aims of the business they work for. For some this may already be occurring, while for others their transition into leadership may be a recent development and an appreciation of strategic leadership may be needed. Other individuals may lie somewhere in the middle where they have a good working knowledge, but want to brush up on certain elements of strategic leadership.  

There are many different ways to evolve leadership at a strategic level but below are some common areas of focus that can help leaders develop in this area.

Understand your current leadership style

The only way you can effectively modify your leadership style or improve your skills is to first understand where you are at the moment. There are a number of ways to do this and a wide variety of profiling tolls that can help, but if you are looking specifically at strategic leadership, there are dedicated psychometric assessments that assess this. To understand your current strategic leadership capability, it’s important to not only assess yourself, but also get feedback from others. As such the use of 3600 feedback is commonly used to help offer insight in this context, arming individuals with the foundations they need to move towards substantial and sustainable change.

Understand the challenges of being a strategic leader

Being in a strategic leadership role is very different to a being in a purely people management position; while you’ll still have to manage people, your focus now needs to be split between their needs and the needs of the wider business. This can be a difficult situation, and to help ensure individuals are more confident in managing this dual responsibility, they first need to understand what the challenges are that they may face. This could be anything depending on the organisation; it could be related to talent management, infrastructure issues or even constraints of external governing bodies. But in order to effectively plan for and address them, these issue need to be uncovered and explored.

Understand how to plan and champion change

One of the things that will inevitably occur when employed in a strategic leadership role is the need to implement a change of some kind. You are in this role to help drive the business forward and that cannot occur without change at some level, so being able to plan, implement and successfully manage that change will be paramount. Often many leaders will find that the planning element of change, although not easy, will be easier than putting it into practice. It is for this reason that learning how to champion change and support people during the process is vital. Some people will undoubtedly resist any potential changes, so knowing how to frame it in a context that clearly outlines the benefits to each individual will drastically help. But it’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone, and there are always ways to improve your change management approach, so take the opportunity to learn from others and consider how you can become more effective in this aspect.

Proactive goal setting for on-going development

Being able to effect change in your organisation is one thing, but being able to manage it in yourself can sometimes be the more difficult part. While learning about the above will offer insight into your leadership style, and help you consider some of the most important issue in strategic leadership, unless you take practical steps towards your own development too, very little will change. It is therefore crucial that those in leadership roles also take time to manage their own development, which includes setting goals, putting learning into practice and reviewing outcomes. This may occur as part of a specific development pathway directed by the organisation, or it may be intrinsically driven as an individual comes to recognise areas for improvement themselves. Either way, the focus needs to be on creating an environment where development can continue to occur, and actively aligns with not only the needs of the business, but the needs of the employee.

Being a strategic leader is a very complex role to inhibit, and one that will require an on-going commitment to development, progression and review. The way a leader approaches their own tasks sets a clear tone for what they expect of those they lead, so one of the most important lessons to learn in strategic leadership is to lead by example and support others to follow.