Want To Be a Senior Leader? You Must Learn How To Be Strategic.


It can be frustrating to be so busy with your day-to-day work. Not being strategic turns into a circular problem. You need to be more strategic but are so bogged down with your everyday job that you don’t have the time to dedicate to being more strategic in your approach. And it is getting stuff done that you’re known for, it is what has gotten you this far. However, without learning to be strategic, you won’t be able to advance in your career.

The ability to take a step back and be strategic in your work and how your team’s work fits into the company vision can be a defining characteristic of who gets promoted to senior levels. Managers can be subject-matter experts who are great at their job but without a handle on strategy they will likely hit a ceiling when it comes to promotion. Moving into senior leadership roles involves demonstrating strategic ability and being able to align your and your team’s work with the organization’s broader goals.

What you can do is start by setting aside a handful of hour and a half blocks on your calendar. Our brains can’t focus much beyond that timespan so you won’t be adding much additional value by carving out time beyond what your brain can fully focus on. Use that time to get an education on your company’s strategy. If your organization is publicly traded or a nonprofit, information available to the general public can provide tremendous insight into the company’s goals, initiatives, and current financial position. These data points can help you to align your own actions with the overarching goals of the organization. Even where your own actions only minimally affect the organizational strategy, your efforts to align convey your awareness to leadership. Employees who ‘get the big picture’ are more valuable. Use your one on ones and even your emails to connect your work to the bigger picture, be explicit about which part of the company’s strategy your efforts are aligned with.

The next step is to evaluate the current tasks on your plate. The modern workday is jam-packed with tasks and little time for organization. Knowing which assignments to tackle and in what order is vital to keep important tasks from falling through the cracks. Which assignment has the biggest impact on the goals of the organization?  Knowing the answer to this question will help you to prioritize work that furthers the strategic goals of the organization, while also providing you with a logical organizational standard.  At some point in their career, most ambitious employees will find themselves with too much work to do, and simply not enough time to do it.  When work must be prioritized, elevating the tasks that most closely align with strategic goals will guide these tough decisions and ensure your resources are allocated where they will have the greatest impact.