Are you a strategic thinker? February 4, 2023 by Belinda EganIf your goal is to be promoted in your organization, you need to be strong in one very particular skill: strategic thinking. If there’s ever been a top buzz phrase thrown onto resumes and into job descriptions willy-nilly, it’s this one. But what does it actually mean? And how do you know when you’re doing a good job at it? Today we’re taking a closer look at what strategic really is, and how you can foster it in your daily leadership practice. First, let’s discuss the two types of thinking as defined by science: divergent and convergent thinking. Both of these are important for you, leader. So pay attention! Divergent thinking: the one that’s “outside the box” To “diverge” is to swim upstream. To do something differently. To go against the grain. Divergent thinking is the same. The opposite of linear and logical – it can be whimsical, witty, or just plain weird. It can be something wild like imagining a pony with spaghetti hair and a spaghetti tail winning first prize at a spelling bee. Or it can be tackling a problem in a way that hasn’t been tried yet. Divergent thinking is how creatives come up with stories, songs, paintings, and sculptures that delight us and help us to see normal things in a different light. Divergent thinking thrives in an environment of open-mindedness and curiosity. A great leader knows how to practice divergent thinking to approach issues when it’s needed. It won’t always be the right call to be creative and try a novel solution to a problem, but sometimes it can be exactly what’s needed. Convergent thinking: following logic and rules Divergent thinking is the quirky, creative, and unconventional thoughts, whereas convergent is principled and rational. Convergent thinking is being aware of all sides of an equation or problem and seeing the most practical solution, based on previous experience and the facts in front of you. When you’re using convergent thinking, you won’t blow anyone away with your creativity, but you might impress your boss with your ability to see the best solution and apply it. This type of thinking is helpful when facing many responsibilities and having to prioritize and delegate quickly. Traditional leaders are praised for this type of thinking: structured, competent, and predictable. A convergent thinker doesn’t rock the boat but calmly guides it through choppy waters. But the type of leader we’re growing at Courageous Leadership…? That’s a visionary leader who uses strategic thinking (a healthy balance of divergent and convergent thinking) to change lives and organizations from the inside out. So how do you know if you are being a strategic thinker in your leadership journey? Strategic thinking requires practice, dedication, and a strong vision and belief system You know your executive team and board’s highest priorities. You’ve been told what to do to protect the bottom line. You also understand the dynamics of your team: their daily tasks, priorities, and complications. If you lean too heavily in the direction of any one of these things, someone is going to have something to say about it. Your job might be at risk. Your reputation might suffer. So how do you balance the priorities of everyone you report to and lead? You use strategic thinking. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of every day to take stock of the tasks ahead of you. “Zoom out” from the linear and look at the bigger picture for the week and month ahead. If you could have a “perfect week” as a leader, what could you say you’ve accomplished by the end of it? How do you want to treat people this week when you’re amid rapid-fire stress? What is one problem that you can take the “band-aid” off of and figure out a permanent solution to? This week, look for opportunities to use divergent and convergent thinking as a leader. Stay accountable and present to yourself, your team, your executives, and your board members. Rinse and repeat. Join the revolution of Courageous Leaders that are dedicated to changing the wave of leadership for the better: check out my Leadership Development services here.