The 12 Qualities of Extremely Valuable, Highly Paid Strategists

Visualize value

What's the difference between a strategist who charges $50 per hour and one who charges $350?

An extremely valuable strategist is the ideal partner for technical experts, scientists, and operational leaders. She helps you accomplish what you set out to do. And she also unlocks the value of your business plan by helping you understand who and what creates value.

To be a strategist like that, you need to have an appetite for ingesting a lot of highly complex data and the ability to hold contradictory information in your head while you make sense of what contributes to positive impact and what doesn't. You also need to be completely dedicated to the subject matter expert's success.

Here are the 12 must-have qualities of an extremely valuable strategist.


1. Know which problem the insight can solve

Then reframe it simply through questions. Is the product or service ineffective? Are the use cases off? Is the audience wrong? Are the success stories bland? Is the writing weak? Is the story coherent? Are the market conversations focused? A great strategist can assess how this is a problem, and which one keeps you from progress.

2. Have a broad and expanding scope of knowledge

Some people can only work on consumer products, retail, and hospitality. More valuable strategists can work on business, technology, science, or sustainable development. They can draw from a broader roster of experiences to understand the audience and the context. This kind of strategist is very well read. She stays up to date on trends, has a strong network she can tap, and keeps learning each day. A very experienced strategist could bring an understanding of business models, Italian culture, anthropology, history, and digital technology to the mix. The intersection of these skills is rare and valuable.

3. Understand the psychology of leaders

Leaders need empathy, affinity, resolve, and honesty. A leader can go from loneliness, adrenaline, inadequacy, jealousy, arrogance, pride, pain, and a desire to leave in a short period of time. The emotional roller-coaster is sharper for entrepreneurs. The constant information flow is enough to overwhelm. A great strategist separates the wheat from the chaff to keep the work moving in a productive direction and serve the company.

4. Respect high-value experts

Experts who pay for the most valuable strategists are valuable themselves. Strategists respect their ideas and time. Coaching and facilitating skills help access knowledge, flesh out concepts, keep the work progressing.

5. Improve the person, not just the project

Regular strategists improve the project. A valuable strategist sees the project and the person. Every conversation and collaboration becomes an opportunity for the expert to refine the idea, not just in the next project, but more broadly in the running of the company.

6. Be fluent with language

All strategists work with words. Extremely valuable strategists work with language. They approach the expert's ideas as an anthropologist might analyze a business model. Which opportunity are we trying to open? What are the best ways to expand its potential?

7. Be adept with varied tools and techniques

Do you need questions to promote rigorous thinking? What frameworks would be useful? A valuable strategist knows nuance and the ways in which different frameworks, checklists, processes, and techniques work (or hinder).

8. Understand the power of words

Words evoke concepts. A valuable strategist understands how metaphors, narrative framing, tone, and message work in concert. She knows appropriate timing for context. There's higher value in the work connecting with culture, not just industry.

9. Know how to write and present

Strategists don't get $350 an hour by being able to spell and create decks. A meaningful presentation enables you and the strategist to gain clarity on an idea.  A compelling and coherent narrative connects with the team, and connects with customers.

10. Preserve the expert's voice

Valuable strategists are also great writers. They understand how the work needs to reflect the voice and tone of the expert and company. Expert strategists can help heighten the effect, while preserving the personality and intent.

11. Work fast

But not just speed, velocity: speed with direction. This is rare and very valuable. Velocity comes from experience, depth, and range. Find a 'reason why' that is real, but not yet acknowledged, and you have opportunity. Work with someone accustomed to detecting those real reasons, and you operate at a whole new level.

12. Work well

Collaborating with someone who understands what you want is valuable. Working with a strategist who's in your corner, and can help you bridge from walk to talk is even more valuable. You can't get change without energy, and the relationship between walk and talk is critical to get movement, change, and value from the work. This is what good work means.

These are my aspirations

I love working with subject matter experts. Most high-powered Chiefs might consider this kind of development work lowly. For me, this is perfect.

Do you need a strategist like this? I'd love to hear from you.

With gratitude to ultra-valuable editor Josh Bernoff, who continues to inspire and educate me on better ways (and not just to write.)


[Image: Visualize Value.]

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