Strategic thinking skills for accountants are an excellent investment for long-term career prospects.

Strategic thinking, at one level, means being able to see the big picture. For example, thinking more widely and holistically. It is a key way to be recognised and promoted to more senior roles. If not now, then in the years to come.

What is strategic thinking?

Strategy is about making choices. Choices that have long-lasting consequences.

Strategic decisions set the direction – and often there is no right strategic choice.

Strategic thinking is a particular way of looking at things that transcends your finance role and all your technical training. Unlike the certainties of finance, there are the uncertainties of strategic choice.

Instead of being down in the weeds, you need to take the wider view. Rather than working on a tactical level, you need to work on a strategic level.

This requires you to bring your mind, thinking and perspective to the long term.

What does your Chief Executive want from you?

Typically, your Chief Executive will develop new strategy or review the existing one.

To do so they need a team with different ideas and perspectives on the options.

As a finance professional you have a uniquely valuable perspective to offer. Your analytical skills can be highly valued.

Your CEO may be looking for a thinking partner – someone to bounce ideas around with. Someone who can think strategically and have a meaningful dialogue with. But also someone who can then translate that into the practicalities of financial options and choices.

You need to develop a special ability. Able to translate their ideas (and flights of fancy!) into financial language and workable financial models. You need to assess risk and play back different scenarios. As a result, the senior team can make sound strategic choices and develop a robust strategic plan.

Being Proactive

You also need to be proactive.

You will see some things that have a strategic impact before your colleagues.

Indeed, you need to go beyond supporting the CEO or other senior colleagues. You need to see what they can’t. Then make suggestions for achieving strategic objectives and suggesting future long term options that are not yet on the table.

Making strategic choices

Your unique perspective gives you a valuable voice in the strategic debate. The organisation needs to consider the financial perspective. They need incorporate appropriate financial assessments when making strategic choices.

It is only an accountant with strategic thinking skills that can make these points powerfully. Therefore you need to make your voice heard in order to make that impact.

Developing your strategic thinking skills means that you participate in the debate from the outset. Alternatively, you are brought in to the debate at the end – and may be presented with a fait accompli.

Why are strategic thinking skills for accountants so important?

Every strategic plan has a financial element to it. Every board needs financially literate strategic thinkers. They are a vital combination for any business.


Strategic thinking skills move you away from the tactical day-to-day to the long term strategic direction of the business.

Demonstrating your strategic thinking skills whenever possible will position you well for promotion to a strategic leadership role.

How will you develop your strategic thinking skills?

What strategic projects could you choose to get involved with now?

What projects could you initiate?

How do your non-finance colleagues discuss strategy?

How do you need to engage with them to meet the strategic thinking needs of the business?

Which of the other key soft skills for accountants do you need to develop?

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