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What Exactly Is a Strategic Thinker?

Activity defines a strategic thinker, not education, birthright or title


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Being tagged as strategic or not can be a boon or a bust for your career. Unfortunately, you must dig deeper to understand what the compliment or curse means.

Have you ever met a strategic payroll clerk? Probably not – though I bet they’re out there. Some positions are more likely to earn this distinction than others.

Have you seen someone who’s admired for being strategic when what he or she really has is chutzpah? You don’t have to be slick or a brilliant communicator to be strategic.

CEOs are strategic, right? Many aren’t. It’s not the job title that makes you strategic, though the role of a CEO should require strategic thinking.

Just being smart doesn’t make you strategic. Your genetic material doesn’t make you strategic, and having an MBA doesn’t assign you that adjective either.

“Strategic” isn’t a personality trait, though there are some personalities that seem more capable.

Strategic thinkers contemplate the future and identify how they’ll prosper. Activity defines a strategic thinker, not education, birthright or title. If you don’t think about the future and pinpoint ways to succeed, you aren’t a strategic thinker, regardless of your job title. People with good fast-twitch muscle fiber and superior eyesight might be decent baseball players, but if they don’t routinely play the game, they ain’t baseball players!

Thinking about the future and how you’ll prosper in that environment will make you strategic, regardless of whether you receive accolades for it. It doesn’t require clairvoyance or brilliance — though intelligence helps! It’s about having a process and doing the hard work. People talk about many things in mystical terms, when in fact it just requires activity.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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