You place your bets when you set strategy

Strategy. Strategic.

Do those words make you feel excited, eager, energized? Or does your heart start racing a bit in fear, at the mere mention of strategy, and the responsibility it brings?

Leaders’ reactions to strategic opportunities run the full gamut from fear and apprehension to eagerness to take on the challenge.

Some people like the excitement of sizing up the future and placing their bets on a particular course of action and events which strategy setting really represents.

For others, the word “strategy” and “strategic” make them break into a fearful sweat. For this group, the risks of getting it wrong seem far higher than the thrill of getting it right.

Strong strategic skills – strategic thinking, strategy setting, and strategic management – are among the top characteristics of great leaders.

The essence of strategic ability is that, of the many paths of action open to an organization, great leaders can see, and then take – or make – the strategic course most likely to lead to success.

They can find their way through uncertainty to high customer satisfaction, product, service and process excellence, and maximum profitability.

When you set strategy, you’re placing your bets – and committing your resources – to what you believe will happen in the future, and what your best response is likely to be to the anticipated future.

What’s really involved in being a great strategist?

You must be able to envision playing the game out completely, rather than to just hope things will work out, magically and effortlessly.

You must have alternative paths figured out in case the paths you envision are wrong, or eliminated for some reason.

You must have or be able to get the resources you need to turn the strategy into effective action.

You must have good information, and know how to use it for effective decision-making, having considered those decisions from many different points of view

You must have the confidence to choose the best course, and stay that course or adapt, as you see what’s happening, as conditions continue to change.

You must keep your eyes on the ultimate prize, the vision of success, given the circumstances at any point, and what may still lie ahead.

Taking the risk, and placing your bet on how you think the uncertain future will play out is not an easy task.

Strategic skills are essential as a leader, however. As with other leadership skills, you can build and refine strategic skills, too, through learning, focus and practice.