What makes it “strategy” is the follow through–turning a wish list or a vision into actionable items that can be achieved. We know from experience that strategic planning means making goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound), but what we less often discuss is the kind of person it takes to move these goals from action items to fruition.
That kind of person is a “strategic thinker.” They have inherent skills that help them not only create a vision, but deliver that vision to their organization. Even if you’re not the CEO, you can contribute to an organization’s strategy and execute the plan.
Eight Traits of Strategic Thinkers
Natural strategic planners are analytical, in that they are also thinking about both the reason for the current or future situation, as well as causes and repercussions of actions. This personality type may come off as difficult or closed-minded because they often demand that ideas be backed by statistics, facts, or information. Data is an incredibly important asset to an analytical thinker.
In the same way that data is important to an analytical thinker, anecdotal stories and past performance are important to a contextual thinker. This allows them to look at and think about the past when envisioning the future. Contextual thinkers believe the answer to problems can be found by understanding the past.
Futuristic and forward-thinking.
This may seem like an obvious trait of a strategic thinker, but successful strategic thinkers don’t just envision the future, they have very specific thoughts, feelings and desires in regards to what the future holds. This forward-thinking trait inspires, drives and energizes this type of individual to paint a picture for others so they can understand the desired outcome in their mind of the strategic planner.
Those who like to accumulate information, anecdotes, ideas, artifacts, and relationships, and are able to collect data from each one of those are information collectors. Words, numbers, facts, quotes–all of this data is held in the infinite space in their mind, archived for when that information may become useful.
Some people find themselves particularly energized by intellectual activity, conversation, mental activity and challenge. They have a natural intellect, and don’t mind flexing their brain muscles to solve a problem, glean light on a situation or understand another person better. Often introspective and deep in thought, an intellectual person can be their own best friend, deeply engrossed in what their mind conceives.
Not surprising, strategic planners are also often known for their curiosity and desire to learn and constantly improve. Learning is exciting, thrilling and energizing to this type of person. No matter the subject, a learner feels accomplished by mastering something new, earning credibility, elaborating on their credentials and gaining competence. For them, it’s the journey and not the destination that excites them.
Strategic people not only are able to come up with a vision and plan, but also understand what it takes to proceed and be successful. Understanding patterns within behaviors and being able to diagnose issues, and likely scenarios, helps them to create a roadmap towards success.
People exceptionally good at strategic planning are fascinated by ideas and what the future can hold, while also being able to make connections between the present and what the future could be. An envisioner is intrigued when they are able to look at a current situation and make an observation or connection of what that could mean for the future.
“Strategy is a commodity; execution is an art.” Peter Drucker. The beauty, however, is that we are capable of creating strategy by finding traits within ourselves that make us strategic players, whether that be our analytical skills, contextual thinking, futuristic vision, ability to collect information, natural intellect, desire to learn, ability to come up with a plan, or fascination with what could be. The key is identifying these qualities within yourself to become the strongest advocate to contribute to your organization’s strategic plan.
Peer mentoring programs, like the one offered by Central Oregon’s Opportunity Knocks group, can help individual executives and business owners identify their strengths, build on opportunity and solidify areas of progress so they can continuously move their business in a forward direction. With the help of a team of peers whose goals are to both be mentor and mentee, participants will learn valuable lessons about their individual business style and how it shapes the organization they represent.