It is a cliche that everyone thinks they’re a strategist. The reason everyone thinks they’re a strategist is because they don’t know what a strategist does.
Get a reality check. Odds are you are not a strategist.
Strategy requires thinking conceptually and creating something from nothing. So, for the most part, if you need to see something in order to do strategy then you are not doing strategy, you’re doing editing.
Strategists usually favor thinking about the future instead of the present; strategists I admire are bored by what is and focus on what could be.
Also, strategy means constantly making decisions based on incomplete information. It means taking intellectual leaps of faith that could derail many departments in an organization, and doing that with confidence.
The best thing you can do for your career is take a personality test to understand your strengths. If you are an INTJ you really are a strategist. If you are not an INTJ, the fewer letters you have that match that, the further away from strategist you are. So get some self-knowledge before you declare yourself a strategist.
If you’re not a strategist, find work that plays to your strengths.
So look, most of you aren’t strategists. But so what? It doesn’t mean you’re not brilliant. There are many ways to be brilliant.
It is a misconception that the strategists do all the important work and everyone else does grunt work. There’s plenty of important, interesting work that is detail-oriented and highly creative, such as building a space ship or doing cinematography.
A lot of people think that if they are not creative or technical then they are strategists. This is not always true. A strategist thinks very big picture and also thinks ahead in time. People who are not artists or programmers and think in terms of the here and now are managers. If you do that with charisma, you’re a leader.
If you are a strategist, then quit talking about it and do it.
Most people I have managed have told me, at one point or another, that their strength is strategy. For the most part, I hear this as “I don’t know how to execute what you’re asking me to execute.” This is why the best way to understand how to do strategy is to execute on other peoples’ strategies. You see first-hand what the common pitfalls of strategy are.
Stop complaining that you are a frustrated strategist because today people at all levels in the organization are getting more opportunity to show their talent as strategists.
This trend is partly a result of management theorists focusing on improving work for the lower ranks–not because improving entry-level work is ethical, but because the topic of how to be a better leader is exhausted, and academics need something fresh to write about, according to the Wall Street Journal.
An example of this trend toward glorifying the low-ranking employee is the book Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, by Barbara Kellerman, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Research like Kellerman’s should drive home to you that if you’re a strategist, you can do it from anywhere in the org chart. So think of a great strategy in your entry-level job and then develop a strategy to convince people in the company to listen to you. That’s a test of your strategic strength right there.
And if you’re not doing strategy in your current job, you might consider that you are like the guy who thinks he is a novelist but is not writing a novel: People do what their strengths are regardless of what their job description is. Real leaders will lead in any situation they find themselves. Real writers will always write, no matter what their day job is. And real strategists will always think in terms of the conceptual future, from any job they have.