Looking for Strategic Leaders? It’s All About How They Behave!

Effective Leaders Have Strategic VisionWith more frequency, organizations are looking for leadership candidates who have “strategic vision.”

And why not.

Running the day-to-day nuts and bolts of an organization is one thing, but having the vision to see beyond the here and now and set the direction for what’s next is quite another.

With that being said, most organizations are not confident in their ability to assess if their job candidates for critical leadership roles are strategic in their orientation.

After all, this is a way of being and thinking that simply can’t be taught – so how do you even assess whether a candidate possesses such skills or not?

From our 25 years of assessing executive leadership on this competency there are a handful of behaviors that if demonstrated, will more often then not predict effectiveness in this area. 

Note: It’s about the behavior a leader exhibits and not how they verbally express their strategic orientation. 

Strategic Behaviors That Matter

First off, having strategic vision means that one is able to identify long-term goals and champion the implementation of different or alternative ideas.

Leaders who are competent at strategic visioning generate creative and strategic solutions that can be successfully implemented – not offer pie in the sky rhetoric.

Often they have a track record of thinking in innovative ways and support similar thinking in others, as well as putting ego aside and embracing a new or innovative idea that was not their own.

From our assessment of executive talent globally, here are the top four behaviors that matter. 

In short, your strategic leaders need to behave in this way:

1.) They view tactical problems or initiatives from a broad perspective and emphasizes solutions that support strategic objectives

2.) They generate new ideas/solutions that can be successfully implemented

3.) They can champion their ideas to successful implementation

4.) They support and champion the strategic initiatives of others

So how do you know if your leaders possess these inherent qualities? Let’s address that next.

Questions That Determine Strategic Thinking

In our time assessing, coaching and interacting with top leaders, we have developed a set of 5 key assessment questions that help to determine if a leadership candidate has demonstrated “strategic vision.” We encourage you to use these in your evaluation process.

Ask these questions to all your final candidates:

  • Tell me about a time when you were involved in setting the long-term goals and direction for your group (or division, company). What was your approach? What types of things did you consider?
  • Describe a time when you felt it was important for your group (department or company) to change direction and thinking, and you personally championed this change. What did you do? Were you successful? Why or why not?
  • Give us some examples of your most innovative business ideas. (Listen for creativity)
  • Describe a few situations in which you made a quick decision about a change of direction for your group that you later regretted. What were the circumstances? (Listen for a tendency to commit too quickly to an idea or direction)
  • Tell us about a time when you had to quickly implement a new approach or strategy in your group (department, company). How did you manage to do this while maintaining your normal workload? (Listen to see if the candidate had the energy to do both or if one suffered at the expense of the other)

Going Forward

Assessing the strategic orientation of potential leaders is not that difficult.

Leaders Need To Be Innovative and Creative

You can increase your assessment effectiveness by using the interviewing questions above and by assessing all final candidates against the 4 behavior statements that matter. 

Keep in mind that it’s about the behavior a leader takes and not how they verbally express their strategic orientation.

Don’t be fooled by a great salesman. Rather, look for the meat and substance behind the words showing innovation, adaptability and the necessary traits that will foster continued growth and innovation within your company.

 

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image of chameleon: cutestpaw.com

About The Author:

Rob Denker is the Managing Principal of rd&partners. He helps leaders consistently see tangible, real-world benefits by making behavioral changes that are directly linked to the organization’s strategic initiatives, and their own effectiveness as a leader. Connect with Rob and rd&partners on LinkedIn.

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