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Think Big Picture

Leading from the middle requires the ability to think like a CEO.

I have the privilege of coaching a lot of talented men and women who are on their way to securing senior leadership positions. They have been identified as up and comers and so their company provides them with coaching to help them learn to become more effective leaders.

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These are smart and talented people, and work diligently in their careers. One thing, however, throws them: the challenge to think strategically. Often this challenge comes from their boss in the form of a performance review, but all too often the boss is unclear what he or she expects by “thinking strategically.”

So let me offer some insight into how to think strategically. Put simply it means adopting the perspective of the CEO. Imagine how the top person in your organization views the world and your company’s role in it. What is he or she thinking about? Customers? Shareholders? Competitors? Likely these and a whole lot more. We call this “big picture thinking.”

The advantage is that you step away from your role as a middle manager and adopt lens of a more senior leader. That’s step one.

What you do next defines your abilities to think strategically as it relates to your job. That is, if you work in marketing, what marketing initiatives should you be promoting that will position not only your product line, but the entire company, in more positive light? Or if you work in purchasing, how might you develop ways to reduce commodity costs without sacrificing quality? In short, you are thinking about your job and function, but how your job and function complement the whole company.

Learning to think strategically is a good way to become noticed, as well as to demonstrate that you have what it takes to lead at a more senior level.

 

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John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2009, Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. This article draws upon themes expressed in John’s newest book, Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up (Amacom 2009).

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