Written by Sarah Shelley

Being an effective leader means being able to confidently lead teams and make the right decisions for the good of the company. When it comes to must-have business leadership skills, strategic decision-making is one that should not be overlooked. 


Specifically, strategic decision-making refers to a leader's ability to make the right decisions based on a company's long-term goals, objectives, values, and overall vision. With a better understanding of what strategic decision-making looks like in leadership, why it matters, and how to put this idea into practice, you can be better prepared for a career in strategic business management. 

Understanding Strategic Decision-Making in Business 

In today's competitive business world, there is simply no overstating the importance of making strategic decisions as a business leader, plus understanding the key components of strategic decision-making. 

Importance of Strategic Decisions in Leadership 

In many ways, being able to make strategic decisions as a business leader can be the difference between the company's ultimate success and failure. No matter what industry your business operates in, things can be highly competitive, and strategic decision-making allows leaders to think quickly on their feet to stay ahead of the game. Meanwhile, the right decision-making keeps businesses on-track with their long-term goals and mission. 

Key Components of Strategic Decision-Making 

So, what exactly does strategic decision-making look like in action? This can vary from one company, and one team, to the next. However, strategic decision-making begins with the framing of a problem or issue that the company is facing, followed by a setting of goals and objectives. 

From there, strategic leaders analyze their options while carefully evaluating the potential pros and cons of each. Ultimately, a decision is only made after determining which choice best aligns with the company's long-term goals, mission, values, and objectives. 

The Role of Strategic Management Programs in Business Success 

While some strategic leadership skills can be learned over time with hands-on experience, the reality is that more companies these days are looking to hire leaders who have already mastered strategic management while in school. For this reason, more leaders are turning to master's degrees in strategic management and similar fields. 

How UC's Online Program Elevates Strategic Thinking 

University of the Cumberlands, for example, offers a master's degree in strategic management designed to help students build the foundational knowledge and skills needed to lead teams and make decisions more strategically. Ultimately, this type of program can help students build upon their past work experiences to apply strategic management and leadership skills in their everyday work. 

Plus, with an entirely online curriculum, students in UC's strategic management program can enjoy the flexibility of being able to study at their own pace without putting their professional careers on the back burner. 

Essential Tools and Frameworks for Strategic Management 

As you begin to learn more about strategic leadership and management, you'll explore the concepts of SWOT analysis and value chains in your business strategy. These key tools and frameworks can ultimately lead you to make more confident and informed decisions for the benefit of your business and teams. 

Leveraging SWOT Analysis for Better Decision-Making 

Using a SWOT analysis can be a great way to identify strengths and weaknesses within your business while exploring other opportunities and mitigating potential risks. Specifically, SWOT stands for: 

  • Strengths - Areas where the business is succeeding or performing well 
  • Weaknesses - Areas where performance is lacking and needs improvement. 
  • Opportunities - Events that could help the business grow and become more successful. 
  • Threats - Outside events or factors that could have a negative impact on the business, such as a recession. 

In performing regular SWOT analysis within a business, leaders can make more informed and strategic decisions to fuel future success and growth. 

Implementing the Value Chain in Your Business Strategy 

Like a SWOT analysis, a value chain analysis can also be extremely useful when it comes to turning ideas into reality. More specifically, a value chain refers to the complete range of resources and activities needed for a business to deliver a product and/or service. 

The process of completing a value chain analysis involves identifying value chain activities, determining the exact costs of each, and pinpointing opportunities for competitive advantage. Business leaders must understand how to use this type of analysis to gain an upper hand on the competition while making more strategic decisions. 

Navigating Team Dynamics in Strategic Management 

One of the biggest challenges that strategic managers face is that of navigating team dynamics. Issues with communication and differing opinions can make it difficult to keep everybody on the same page and working toward the same goals. 

Fostering Effective Communication and Collaboration 

Fortunately, there are some practical strategies that strategic leaders can use to foster more effective communication and collaboration in the workplace. This begins with making sure all team members are up to speed on the company's goals and vision, as well as taking the time to ask for feedback when needed. 

Leaders should also build a culture of open communication, where leaders engage in active listening while taking team members' concerns seriously. All of this, in addition to building trust and rewarding collaboration, can make a huge difference in any workplace. 

Overcoming Common Challenges in Team-Based Decision-Making 

There are many other problems that can arise in a team setting, especially when it comes to collaborative decision-making. This includes natural conflict that can arise when team members have opinions or beliefs that may clash with those of others. Ultimately, it is up to strategic leaders to keep things on-track by engaging in appropriate conflict management while maintaining solid leadership and a sense of accountability. 

Strategic Planning: From Theory to Practice 

While the concept of strategic planning and decision-making may seem simple enough, actually putting this idea into practice can be easier said than done. This is where having some specific methods and procedures in place for strategic planning as a leader can make all the difference. 

Setting Achievable Goals with Scenario Planning 

Scenario planning is an excellent tool that can help leaders prepare for whatever the future may hold, which can in turn make it possible to make decisions more strategically. Scenario planning involves identifying potential outcomes, both positive and negative, while preparing for each scenario as comprehensively as possible. With a sound scenario-planning strategy in place, business leaders can manage teams wisely and react with confidence, no matter what the future may hold. 

Measuring Success: Evaluation Techniques for Strategic Decisions 

Meanwhile, strategic leaders and managers can also improve their decision-making by following strategic evaluation techniques. These are specific techniques or methods that help leaders determine whether a plan or decision is meeting its intended goals and objectives. Both scenario planning and SWOT analysis are useful evaluation techniques for strategic decisions, as are: 

  • Situation analysis 
  • Environmental analysis 
  • Gap analysis 

Adapting to Change: The Role of Flexibility in Strategy 

As much as strategic business management leaders need to think ahead and plan for every scenario possible, they must also remain flexible and ready to adapt to change at a moment's notice to be truly successful leaders. This is especially true when it comes to managing change within organizations, as well as learning from failure and adjusting strategies when needed. 

Strategies for Managing Change Within Organizations 

Business leaders can follow a number of change management strategies within their respective organizations to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. This begins with solid communication that helps team members understand the reasoning behind the change. To add, there is also ample training to make sure everybody is familiar with any new processes before the change occurs. 

Learning From Failure: How to Pivot Strategies Effectively 

Not all decisions end up being the correct one, so business leaders also need to learn how to pivot strategies when things aren't going according to plan. This means always having a backup plan in place and being able to communicate with team members in advance of the change. From there, leaders should also be prepared to monitor the results of the change and make additional adjustments as needed. 

The Future of Strategic Decision-Making 

As the scope of business continues to grow and change, so must methods and best practices in strategic decision-making. With this in mind, business leaders must be prepared to stay on top of emerging trends in strategic management, including a renewed focus on sustainability and ethics in the business world. 

Emerging Trends in Strategic Management 

One of the most notable trends beginning to be seen in strategic management is the use of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to assist in decision-making processes. Using data-driven analytics and reporting, business leaders can now have access to more information than ever. This, in turn, can help guide their decisions. 

Strategic leaders should also be aware of some other upcoming trends in management, including a greater focus on the end customer and more involvement in decision-making processes by team members. 

Incorporating Sustainability and Ethics into Business Strategy 

Today's businesses are also more focused on sustainability and ethics in their practices than ever before, so business leaders need to be ready to incorporate these kinds of practices into their everyday operations whenever possible. This may include running an analysis on current operations and procedures to pinpoint potential areas of improvement. 

Pursue Your Master's in Strategic Management 

As you can see, there are many ways in which strategic management and decision-making skills can make you a better leader, giving you and your team a competitive advantage. At the same time, strategic decision-making typically isn't a skill that you perfect overnight. Instead, it takes a great deal of learning, adapting, and practice to become a confident strategic business management leader. 

If you're looking for an advanced degree program that focuses on the specific expertise you need to manage business resources, make decisions, and lead teams more strategically, University of the Cumberlands’ Master's degree in Strategic Management may be right for you. This program is offered entirely online and covers such critical topics as strategic management, strategic leadership, and more. 

Get in touch to learn more about this program or get started by completing your online application for enrollment today.