A strategic manager is very different from a functional manager. The functional manager focuses on a specific area such as accounting, finance or marketing. The strategic manager needs a much wider view of things, how all the different functional disciplines must be integrated to drive success in the marketplace.
At the top of the list is the ability to deal with people. This is everyone, your employees, your partners, vendors and suppliers and your customers, the general public, the government, even your competitors. If you do not have the ability to deal and communicate with people then it will be very difficult to succeed as a strategic leader. You need to develop a keen instinct for culture and norms, hone your political savvy, understand the different competing agenda’s, the fears and the wants of these different groups.
You need to learn how to speak their language, listen not just to their words, but their hearts even as they speak those words, the underlying meanings, the true agenda below the surface and behind all the posturing.
You need to develop your skill for rallying those people behind you and your cause. The most effective way to do that, to get buy-in, is to be cognizant of their interests, what’s in it for them, how they will benefit from it all. You need to able to make them “see” that. Never think that people will do something just because you want it to be done. They have to want it too. You might be able through authority or coercion, think that you can get people to do your bidding. With that approach their support will usually be short lived, as long as you can apply your authority, as long as you can wave the stick. It won’t be consistent or intrinsic support.
Understand what’s going on around you. Do not be like those people who don personal headsets and listen to their own music while walking in the middle of a parade. Later they will say they participated in and witnessed the parade. Did they? What was the band playing?
Read and listen to the news, look around you, what’s happening in your company, in your industry, in your town or city, in your country, around the world. Listen to political, economic and social analysis. Don’t be ignorant to what’s going on around you. Understand the world of money, the institutions, the economics, the different variables.
Understand why people buy a product, pay for a service. Why do they need it, why are they willing to pay for it? Why would they buy it from you and not the next guy? Why would they buy it today, not tomorrow? Why would they buy it here not there?
Watch your wallet and I don’t mean just your personal one. The company wallet. If you don’t know how to manage your nickels and dimes, then your dollars will disappear. Only borrow if you know you can repay. Don’t spend money on things you cannot afford. Don’t spend money on useless toys. In fact don’t spend. Invest.
Know how to organize yourself and others. Always start any activity with a plan. Always plan ahead. And always work your plan. Planning on paper reveals potential pitfalls. You can plan for those now while everything is on paper. Better to do that now than later when you’re in the thick of things, in the heat of battle.
Don’t delay things. Do things while the going is good. Remember, it’s hard to make hay in the middle of a storm.