During this past holiday season, I received an email from LinkedIn with a headline saying something along the lines of, “Thomas, you have the word ‘strategic’ in your bio. More than 35,000 other people use this word. Stand out now by upgrading your account.”
So, this got my attention. Without providing a full chart of my strengths and weaknesses as a professional, I have always prided myself on strategic thinking being a vital strength of mine. But, it made me think. If everyone considers strategy to be a strength, is it really an important trait today, or is it something that everybody has and is almost expected to know?
Then, two public incidents happened almost simultaneously that made me reconsider how common or often strategic thinking is a part of our day-to-day decision making.
- First, Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was fired from her job for her direct involvement in closing traffic lanes as part of political revenge on a local politician. The closing of the lanes shut down the George Washington Bridge, causing complete gridlock and even prevented medical authorities from reaching a 91-year-old woman who had a heart attack and died.
- Secondly, at right about the same time, Justine Sacco, the PR director for New York media conglomerate InterActiveCorp was fired after she posted a tweet right before she took off for a transcontinental flight to South Africa saying, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Oh, wait I’m white.“ This was not the first controversial tweet she had posted.
It really caught my attention that, within the span of a week, two highly successful communication professionals were in the middle of controversies that could have been prevented if they had utilized strategic thinking about how their actions may affect their careers.
I am not going to stand here and proclaim that I have never made any mistakes. Both professionally and personally, there have been decisions in my life that I regretted making. The good thing about the mistakes that I have made in my life is that I took those moments to learn from them and make sure that I become a better person from them.
And, I have to give both of these professionals the benefit of the doubt that they will learn from these highly publicized incidents and return with a sense of self-awareness as they continue their careers.
But, in light of these incidents, I think LinkedIn may want to reconsider trying to alarm me about how many people describe themselves as strategic. Thinking in terms of long-term, big-picture focus helps us in the small decisions of our lives. Trying to decide if our actions will lead us closer to or further away from these plans is vital to being strategic, whether it is for you, your company, your family or your clients.