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Strategic thinking: Three tips to boost leadership agility

In a recently published leadership survey by PwC, 77% of respondents said they were either somewhat or extremely concerned about a lack of key skills. When asked to identify the most elusive talents, CEOs identified a quartet of thinking skills – adaptability, problem solving, creativity and innovation.

HR leaders can increase thinking agility and develop related competencies by embracing the following three strategies:

Know your thinking sweet spotThe first step is to develop greater awareness of your thinking tendencies and strengths.

Analytical thinkers are logical, realistic, and numbers-driven, while practical thinkers are highly organised, task-driven and focused on operational plans. Relational thinkers are more focused on so-called soft skills – being expressive, engaging and sensitive to others. And experimental thinkers imagine what’s possible and challenge the status quo with their curiosity and drive.

Each person exhibits a unique mix of the above attributes, expressing some more dominantly than others. And the way an individual navigates his or her daily work mirrors the strengths or limitations of his or her thinking in these four domains.

So, which of these attributes dominates your approach? When you’re faced with a tricky problem, which dimension(s) do you rely on most to help you find a solution?

Mind the gap

It’s important to identify your thinking gaps. Possessing an understanding of your thinking sweet spot is essential because we instinctively form habits and patterns of behaviour around them.

These well-established patterns may well be the secret of our success, but as our roles evolve and the challenges we face shift, leaders need to extend themselves beyond their sweet spot and develop wider thinking skills. Filling in these thinking gaps by strengthening the domains you are less comfortable with will enable you to collaborate with and influence people more effectively.

Evolution not revolutionAs situations evolve, let your thinking also change. A change in thinking won’t happen overnight, but as actions evolve, a new way of thinking will emerge. As you stretch to sharpen your own thinking agility, be mindful that the time you are least likely to change is when you’re facing high pressure to perform. It’s only natural.

At these crucial times, people usually revert to the way they know best. This means that efforts to expand your thinking agility are best attempted when pressure is low. Agility isn’t about the right or wrong way to think. It’s about the situational awareness and conscious effort to adapt your thinking to the specific situation.

Parts of this article first appeared on the strategy+business website.

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