There are very few great things that come quickly in life and leadership. Great leadership requires strategy, and that must be cultivated with good old fashioned thinking. As I’ve observed and listened to leaders, I’ve uncovered some reasons why many leaders resist the thinking part of strategic thinking. See if you can recognize yourself as someone who isn’t doing the thinking they need to do to set thoughtful, effective strategies:
1. You have an extreme attraction to “doing” things. Every time you do something that you can complete quickly and get a fast end result, you get a little adrenaline rush. It feels good. Most of this “doing” is busy work that has nothing to do with leadership or being strategic.
2. Thinking feels oddly like naval gazing. How can you justify time to think when it looks and feels like you’re not doing anything? It can also be scary to be alone with your thoughts. Anyway, you don’t know where to begin to “just think”.
3. You’re reluctant to delegate tactical work, necessary to free up the time for you to spend thinking about strategy. Giving up doing tactical things that someone else can do means you have to find someone who can learn to do it and then train them. You just don’t have time for this.
Start Thinking Now
If you’re not thinking strategically, you just might fail as a leader. Hunkering down and doing some good old fashioned thinking is essential. Consider beginning here:
Gain a deep understanding: It’s important to spend time learning about your organization and how it is connected to the larger organization or world in order to develop successful organizational approaches. What’s your best way of learning? Consider reading up on strategies of external competitors or discussing successful internal strategies with colleagues who’ve proven themselves in this arena.
Make an appointment with yourself: Put time on your calendar to think and resist the temptation to allow something else to delay or cancel it. Get out of the office and settle in a quiet place where you can’t be found and you can do your best thinking uninterrupted by daily work.
Experiment with ways to begin thinking: If you’re not used to this kind of brain-work, you might need to find a way to begin. A little background music helps for some people. Exercise can increase blood flow to your brain before a thinking session. And once you sit down, questions such as “What are the areas that I’m responsible for that require long term attention?” and “What kind of attention to they require? Why?” will help to the thinking going.
Enlist a thinking partner: Sitting and thinking can be hard. Many leaders do their best thinking out loud as they speak. If this is true for you, find a trusted confidante to help you talk through your strategies, ask you questions, and to keep you on track as you formulate ideas.
Whenever you have an important, complicated, or tough situation that requires a solid strategy, make sure you set aside time and find a way to do your best thinking. The best leaders know that the “thinking part” is important to their strategies.