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Successful business performance stems from a leadership culture and continuous development of leadership at all organizational levels. High-performing companies directly link leadership strategy to business strategy. They acknowledge that when managers and employees are well coached, trained and developed, the business thrives.

Leadership is not limited to the CEO and other front offices. Implode this obsolete paradigm and make it your corporate philosophy to identify and grow leaders throughout your company – even in areas you may least expect.

Why It’s Important

A 2013 global study evaluated the leadership practices and effectiveness of 60,000 managers and executives in more than 140 countries and 26 industries. Each participant was assessed using Leadership Analysis Effectiveness (LEA), a 360-degree tool that measures 22 leadership practices and 20 measures of effectiveness. Practices included such attributes as innovation, persuasion, communication and results orientation. Effectiveness measures included future potential, credibility, business aptitude and interpersonal skills.

Findings concluded that strategic thinkers are the most effective leaders. They think and act strategically all the time, every day.

  • A strategic approach to leadership was found to be 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other behaviors studied. It was twice as important as communication, which ranked number two. It was nearly 50 times more critical than hands-on tactical behavior.
  • A follow-up study investigated profiles demonstrated by 10,000 senior executives charged with setting leadership goals for their companies. When asked to select the behaviors most critical to their organization’s future, they chose “strategic” 97 percent of the time.

How to Define a Strategic Leader

Leaders who scored well in the following areas were six times more likely to be seen as effective compared with those whose scores were low. They were four times more likely to be seen as individuals with significant future potential within their organizations:

  • Taking a broad, long-range approach to problem solving and decision making.
  • Thinking in multiple time frames. They identified what they were trying to achieve over time and how to get there, including milestone timelines.
  • Thinking systematically. They pinpointed the impact of their decisions on various segments of their organization including internal departments, personnel, suppliers and customers.

How to Develop a Strategic Leader

Strategic thinking is a mindset, not just a set of tactics and techniques. To foster strategic thinking as an integral part of your leadership approach:

  • Have managers set aside time for strategic planning. Make it a regular, ongoing part of their jobs – both alone and in collaboration with others.
  • Arm people with information on the market, the industry, the competition and new technology. Having broad business information is a key prerequisite to strategic leadership. Keep them informed of what’s happening internally by sharing news across boundaries. Encourage cross-functional teams to work on strategic organizational issues.
  • Build mentorships. One of the best ways to develop the right skills is to be mentored by someone who is highly strategic.
  • Communicate your company philosophy, mission and goals throughout the organization. Individuals and teams need to understand the broader corporate strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and goals.
  • Reward employees for thinking, not just reacting. Encourage the anticipation of opportunities and the prevention of problems. Discourage crisis management and avoid a firefighting environment.

Adopt a Leadership Philosophy

In a true leadership culture, each individual is given responsibility to understand the business and make decisions that support its mission. Bolster this by investing in the right training programs. Companies that rank top in leadership development invest 30 to 40 percent more in it than do their peers.

The executive search consultants at BrainWorks have the resources, experience and proven track record you need as you develop your successful leadership culture. To learn more, read our related posts or contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you!


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