Whether you’re the CEO of a company, a regional manager overseeing several locations, or the owner of a small local business, one thing’s for sure: your success is not defined by what you do today, but by how you use today to plan for the future. Strategic planning, while critical to a company’s long-term success, doesn’t always come naturally. Exceptional leaders in any industry have worked hard to become strategic thinkers. How? Take a look.

Strategic Leaders Challenge the Status Quo

Success rarely comes to people who accept the current way of doing things as the best way to get things done. Strategic thinking requires leaders to be open to different ways of doing things, seeking out solutions that meet business goals through unconventional means.

Strategic Leaders Anticipate Business Changes

No matter what industry you’re in, outside forces impact your business. Think about how rapidly social media has impacted how businesses engage their customers. The companies led by strategic thinkers will stay ahead of these types of changes instead of playing catch-up later.

Strategic Leaders Value Their Stakeholders

Every business has a variety of different stakeholders from owners and employees to vendors and customers. Successful leaders not only value the input of all their stakeholders, they strategically pursue it and act on it.

Strategic Leaders Follow a Decision Making Process

Risk-taking is a trait that most successful leaders possess. That doesn’t mean, however, that risks should be taken haphazardly. Leaders who are strategic thinkers only take calculated risks. They follow a systematic decision making process that guides them toward the risks that are most likely to pay off in the short and long-term.

Strategic Leaders Are Lifetime Learners

Successful business leaders never stop learning. They’re open to new ideas from a variety sources. This includes traditional forms of learning, such as seminars and books, to more informal methods, such as simply listening to fresh viewpoints.

Transforming into a strategic business leader won’t happen overnight. You can, however, change your approach over time to shift to strategic thinking practices.