Strategic Thinking Competencies

As a leader, strategic thinking is a vital skill necessary for all leaders to proficient in. A leader who is a strategic thinker is able to remain open to emerging opportunities (Liedtka & Rosenblum, 1998) and see clearly the successful path to take. A holistic approach to strategic thinking allows leaders to redesign processes for greater efficiency and effectiveness, allowing the leader to be more determined and less distracted (Mellon and Kroth, 2013). This is considered intelligent opportunism, when a leader’s strategic understanding provides opportunity to be responsive to local opportunities. (Mellon and Kroth, 2013).

To become a strategic thinker, leaders must strategically act, which requires a mindset that sees acting as an opportunity for learning (Hughes et al., 2014). Such a perspective requires discipline in the leader, which is an ability to regulate impulses and desires; such discipline is indispensable for success (Baumeister, 2015). In order to develop the discipline of strategic thinking, a starting point must be established.

Hughes et al. (2013) provide three key strategic acting competencies that allow a leader to have a clear starting understanding of their strategic proficiency. These competencies are derived from four elements of a strategic acting mindset: only some actions are strategic; strategic acting is short term and long term; strategic acting is an opportunity for learning; strategic decisions always involve uncertainty.  From these elements Hughes et al. (2013) formulate three strategic acting competencies: acting decisively in the face of adversity, fostering agility, and creating alignment by setting clear strategic priorities. With the competencies as a framework, they developed a twelve question evaluation which acts as an effective tool for identifying areas of growth. As a consultant, or coach, such a tool would provide clarity and objectivity to the process of helping a leader, become more effective strategic thinkers with intentional action.

How can personality profiles (Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinders, etc.) supplement or inform strategic thinking evaluations?


Baumeister, R. F. (2015). conquer yourself, conquer the world. Scientific American, 312(4), 60–65.

Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: your role in your organization’s enduring success (Second edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Liedtka, J. M., & Rosenblum, J. W. (1998). Teaching Strategy as Design: A Report from the Field. Journal of Management Education, 22(3), 285–303.

Mellon, J., & Kroth, M. (2013). Experiences That Enable One to Become an Expert Strategic Thinker. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education, 42(2), 70–79.


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