Congratulations—you’ve taken the first important step toward improving your strategic leadership skills by landing on this article. Whether you’re a senior leader or a new manager, doing research in an effort to change is admirable.
Strategic leadership is learned—it does not come naturally. Therefore, educating yourself about the characteristics you want to embody will help you become a better leader. We’ve done some deep thinking around strategic leadership here at ClearPoint, and these are the top five characteristics we believe are critical to develop.
Strategic Leadership: The 5 Characteristics Of A Good Leader
1. Strong Communication
Without a doubt, being an effective communicator is a top attribute of a strategic leader. You may have a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish, but if you can’t convey it to your team or colleagues, it will be almost impossible to carry out. By developing the ability to clearly describe what you want done and relate it to your team, you will unite everyone’s efforts. More specifically, your team needs to be aligned and on-board with your strategic objectives and goals to be successful.
Communication also extends to “softer skill” practices, like having an open-door policy or holding regular one-on-one meetings with team members. Express your vision clearly and then make yourself accessible to discuss anything going on in the office.
2. Passion & Commitment
Enthusiasm for your mission or project will get others excited because they can see and feel your dedication. But you must also add commitment to the mix of strategic leadership qualities, because passion doesn’t always get the job done. Commitment is the ability to stay focused on what will make you successful.
One simple way to convey your passion and commitment is to lead by example. You expect your team to work hard and produce quality results, so roll up your sleeves and join them. Team motivation significantly increases when people see their boss working alongside them, putting in the same level of effort (or more) than everyone else. When you show that hard work is being done on every level of the organization, you prove your commitment and earn the respect of your team as a leader.
Another idea that we have seen from some leaders in Balanced Scorecard organizations is to always carry a version of your strategy map. It could be pocket-size or wallet-size, or printed and put in a notebook. This will allow you to regularly ask your colleagues and employees where they fit in on the strategy and how they regularly contribute. Furthermore, this highlights a passion for your strategy, and helps with the first attribute: good communication. Soon you may find that everyone carries their own copy of the strategy map!
A positive attitude is contagious. If your team is led and surrounded by happy and positive people, they will work harder and be happier themselves. Positivity can take many forms in the workplace—from providing snacks in the communal kitchen to keeping an upbeat tone in your internal emails. Of course there should be a balance between play time and productive time, but do your best to create a positive, supportive environment during the workday.
Keep in mind that some leaders conduct strategy review meetings and only focus on the problems—i.e. the red and yellow items in their scorecard. You definitely want to be aware of issues (as no good leader has their head in the sand), but you must also take the time to recognize things that are going well with your strategy and celebrate successes.
When you’ve been working at a company for years, or simply been in the same career for a while, it’s easy to get stuck. Being a strong leader requires practicality and realism, but just as importantly it requires having an eye for innovation and the vision to execute on it. Nimbly adjusting and adapting to current business or economic environments is a valuable skill to foster.
In other words, don’t get too comfortable. If an idea or process is foreign to you, assess it and look at the benefits of implementing something new. Characteristics of a strategic leader include being open to change and “left-field” thoughts, because that is precisely what will give you a competitive advantage. By making sound decisions based on data, no vision or innovation will be too far afield.
Remember that you may not be the most innovative person in the room—but you still need to foster innovation amongst your team. Be sure to have sessions or days where you encourage ideas about innovating around your strategy, and give some of the ideas the resources they need to be tested or expanded. If you never allow team members to innovate, they will have no examples inside of the organization to point to in order to make suggestions in the future.
Having a collaborative approach to leadership is powerful because it naturally creates transparency in your organization. If you’re connected to your team and genuinely interested in collaborating with them, they will know what you’re thinking and vice versa. Collaboration leads to trust, and your team will be more likely to support your vision. If you’re not getting buy-in on that strategic plan you’ve created, it’s not going to be effective. People want to own what they help create.
One way to improve collaboration is to create some small projects and put others in charge. Play the role of participant on the project instead of being a leader. Show your colleagues that you respect their ideas and approach. From there, you can begin implementing this with bigger projects and initiatives. Be sure to give credit where it’s due—in public—so that others can see that you appreciate their contributions.
A final thing to consider is that strategic leadership is different for everyone. How your leadership characteristics manifest depends on the company culture and existing frameworks, as well as your individual skills. For example, effective communication channels will look very different for a manager who is working on-site daily with the team versus a remote manager checking in every so often. Adapt your strategic leadership style to fit your role, your company, and your working situation.
Part of being a good leader is the ability to get things done efficiently and effectively. To sharpen that skill, you may want to sharpen your internal reporting process. If this process runs smoothly, you can help keep your team on the right track toward strategic success!
In this all-inclusive free guide, you’ll find all the details of a comprehensive strategic planning process, tips to help you apply the information to your own reporting guide, and ways you can implement this information in ClearPoint. Download it today!