Lead Smarter, Not Harder: Strategic Thinking is Your Game Changer

Discover how balancing strategic thinking with action can revolutionize your leadership approach. 

Serious thinking time is often overlooked as a valuable commodity among senior leaders. Let’s face it, who can make room for it – with a perpetually full calendar and more plates spinning than a circus act? 

For many of us, the urge to be in a constant state of reacting and responding is overpowering. 

But what if the secret to successful leadership lies in more strategic thinking and less reactive action?  

After all, thinking strategically allows us to challenge assumptions, innovate and lead with vision, rather than just managing tasks. 

Let’s explore how we can set this change in motion with insights from a recent WeQual Executives member event.

What is Strategic Thinking?

Strategic thinking is taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. A strategic thinker views every business decision through the lens of their end goal, plotting out a course of action that delivers the best outcome.

So how can we adopt this mindset regularly?

"Begin by acknowledging the challenges and obstacles that come your way, and focus on what you can control."

Embrace a Culture of Strategic Thinking

Firstly, it’s important to identify what strategic thinking means in your organization’s context. It could involve focusing on long-term goals, keeping abreast of external trends and how they impact your business, or creating a culture that encourages innovative problem-solving.  

Once you’re clear on how you want to strategize, schedule regular brainstorming sessions where team members can present ideas or insights without the pressure of immediate action. This fosters a culture where thinking outside the box becomes a business imperative.

Identify and Overcome Barriers

What specific factors are hindering your strategic thinking?  

Conduct a thorough self-assessment; it could be operational overload, lack of resources, or even a non-supportive organizational culture.  

Create a ‘barrier log’ where you note down moments when you feel hindered. Analyzing this log can reveal patterns and help you formulate strategies to overcome these obstacles.

Reflect on Your Leadership Style

Self-awareness is key when it comes to leadership.  Nail down your current leadership approach by seeking feedback from peers, mentors, and team members.  

Do you lead by inspiration?  

Are you hands-on, or do you empower your team to take the reins?  

For deeper insights into your specific leadership style, use self-assessment tools or a leadership coach who can act as a sounding board for new ideas or offer invaluable, honest feedback. An outside perspective can help you reflect on any changes you’d like to make. 

Once you’re familiar with your natural leadership characteristics, maintain a journal and regularly document decisions, reactions to crises, and everyday interactions. Reviewing this over time will help you discover opportunities to schedule valuable thinking time.

Delegate and Prioritize

It can be challenging to let go of projects that you have a personal investment in, but the more you can delegate to your team, the more strategic thinking time you can dedicate to processing and strategizing.  

As Jasi Halai, Chief Operating Officer at 3i Group plc says: “Begin by acknowledging the challenges and obstacles that come your way, and focus on what you can control. Empower your team to operate at their full potential, and motivate them by assigning tasks that align with their personal career goals. This will encourage them to go above and beyond and maximise the opportunities. Remember to persevere through difficult times and lead by example with empathy and compassion. You can foster a positive and productive work environment by showing your team that you care about their wellbeing and are willing to work alongside them.”

Schedule Strategic Thinking Time

Treat strategic thinking time as a non-negotiable appointment with yourself. Schedule it during your most productive hours of the day to ensure high-quality thinking. 

Use this time not just for reflection but also for connecting disparate ideas, reading about industry trends, and exploring ‘what-if’ scenarios. This habit can lead to more innovative and strategic insights over time. 

Dedicating time to thinking strategically and doing less is not just about time management; it’s a profound shift in leadership style. Remember, the quality of your leadership is not just defined by what you do but also by the depth of your thoughts that guide these actions.

Thanks to our Guest Contributor:

Jasi Halai

Chief Operating Officer at 3i Group plc

Jasi is also a WeQual Executive and Finalist in the WeQual Awards, EMEA 2019 in the Operations category.