Leading without a Title (Part 2)

Mastering Your Strategic Leadership Skills.

In our work blog last month, we discussed mastering soft-skills leadership in the workplace.  This month, we continue our conversation with ways to enhance your strategic leadership skills.

What are strategic skills?  Here’s a terrific definition from the Harvard Business Review:

Strategic skills are the abilities to anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align and learn.  An adaptive strategic leader is someone who is both resolute and flexible, persistent in the face of setbacks but also able to react strategically to environmental shifts—has learned to apply all six at once.”

Harvard Business Review

Here are some techniques I employ to develop these skills:

Rule #6:  Find Good Mentors Who Uplift You

  • Have your personal board of advisors. It’s okay to have more than one!

  • I have three mentors:

    • One whose communication style I love

    • One within my work group who knows the players to help me problem-solve 

    • One outside my organization to whom I can vent

  • Mimic a quality of your mentor that you aspire to e.g communication style, negotiation approach, consensus building, etc.

  • Even leaders need mentors; you cannot succeed at work without them

Rule #7:  Don’t Apologize

  • especially if you are a woman.  Saying “I’m sorry” has become almost a nervous tic.

  • Whatever you do, do it with confidence

  • Be vulnerable. Contrary to popular belief truest measure of strength is in allowing oneself to be vulnerable.

Rule #8:  Focus on Consensus-Building,  Not Doing-It-Alone

  • You may have the greatest idea in the world in a brainstorming meeting, but don’t shove it down your co-workers’ throats; rather, nudge your colleagues to think in your direction

  • Remember: When everyone works together as a team, it’s also a win for you

  • Be collaborative

  • Be open to different views from your own

  • Be approachable

Rule #9:  Be Prepared for Meetings

  • Being unprepared shows laziness and disrespect

  • Always walk in knowing the context of the conversation

  • Ask questions (see Rule #3); being silent can be deadly

  • Don’t get thrown off by those eager-beavers who hijack meetings

Rule #10:  Never Eat Alone

  • If you see a group dining together, approach and simply say, “May I join you?”

  • Adopt a “never eat alone” mindset and invite your leaders or bosses for a bite 

Tips on how to recruit for your personal board of advisors? What I look for:

  • Understands your goals and objectives

  • Understands the bigger picture--helps you find the missing puzzle to complete the big picture

  • Is familiar with your environment or can easily adapt their experience and draw parallels to yours

  • Is compassionate, empathetic and discreet. You need to feel comfortable confiding in your mentor without fear of professional backlash

  • Listens well-not exactly your 2am friend but when you do need to speak to them, they listen to understand and not listen to respond

  • Is invested in your success-their personal brand would be reflected in your success fabric

  • Shows you different perspectives--shows you glass half full when you are adamant that it is half empty

  • Has traversed a journey you'd like to emulate. It is helpful knowing your mentor has gone through similar struggles and understands yours

  • Can help you be a better version of yourself--(that is the ultimate goal)

My personal board of advisors is made up of leaders who belong to professional fields separate from mine. They are trailblazers, social influencers, and corporate champions. This mix of experience and personalities  provides me a vantage point of looking from the outside in--in to my world.

What are the qualities you most cherish in your mentors?