skip to main content
The Strategic Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Strategic Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup StrengthsFinder Strategic definition: People exceptionally talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

One of my favorite movies of recent years is "The Martian," based on the novel by Andy Weir. As stranded astronaut Mark Watney first seeks to just survive on Mars; then as he communicates with NASA back on Earth; and then as the crew of the spaceship that abandoned him makes plans to rescue him, I saw Strategic in all its glory: plans, back-up plans, what-ifs, contingencies -- all abound in this film.

That is the CliftonStrengths Strategic theme at its heart. Individuals strong in the Strategic theme spot relevant patterns in any given scenario and can quickly create alternative and multiple ways to proceed. Where most see only complexity, they see patterns and alternatives. Strategic is about considering all the options, selecting the best one, and then moving down that path -- often before anyone else does. It's a specific way of seeing the world.

Strategic anticipates possibilities and creates options; "What if … ?" is the beginning of most questions asked by those with strong Strategic talents. And the most oft-given reply? "It depends."

Strategic: Helps and Hinders

When you coach those with Strategic in their Top 5, helping them claim both the "helps" and the "hinders" of the theme is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Strategic include:


  • You naturally see possibilities and alternatives. You almost always have a plan B, C and D, which helps you focus on the outcomes you want to achieve.
  • You see the big picture and can help your team avoid getting lost in minutiae.
  • Your ability to see alternatives gives you a persistence that creates confidence.
  • Your Strategic CliftonStrengths talents can be a source of optimism for yourself and others -- there's always a way forward, and even with the inevitable setbacks, you can see another way to get to the end result.


  • Because you sort alternatives and arrive at the best route quickly, others may not see it. Be sure to "show your work" so others can come with you.
  • Your tendency to weigh all the possible options may slow things down when time is of the essence -- especially if you get new information that creates new options to be considered.
  • You see alternative ways of doing things. This can be interpreted as criticism of what others are doing, so be careful in your messaging.
  • You tend to fly at 30,000 feet -- which is an advantage but can also cause you to miss important details. Be sure to ask yourself and others, "What am I missing here?" When you do this in planning with others, they will feel valued for their ideas and insights.

Strategic: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Strategic -- or any -- talents at a particular goal, an individual must have: 1) self-awareness about the theme's power, edge and vulnerabilities; 2) an understanding of how the theme finds expression in day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving; and 3) knowledge of how to regulate the theme to maximize the potential positive outcomes that can be realized through intentionally applying a strengths-based approach. Coaches can help clients with strong Strategic talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Strategic: Those with Strategic among their Signature Themes have an ability to see and think several moves ahead, which helps them anticipate and prepare for contingencies.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Strategic: Because they sort and decide quickly, those with strong Strategic talents can leave others behind, causing isolation and giving them the reputation of not being a good collaborator.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Strategic by helping them explore instances in the past when this theme was particularly useful. To facilitate this exploration, coaches can ask the following questions:

  • What makes a great day for you?
  • How do you help others on your team see the big picture?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Strategic talents contribute to that success?
  • When was a recent time that you had to make a course correction? How did you determine the right path to select?


Self-regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to amplify, accelerate, activate, soften or moderate that talent. For example, because those with strong Strategic talents see alternatives and tend to quickly choose the best path forward, others may feel left out of the decision-making process and that their opinions don't count. In situations like these, a coach can help the client find other talents that might yield better results. Also, coaches can help clients explore different theme combinations. Below are some possible combinations that will either amplify or moderate Strategic:

Strategic: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • How would you describe a great day at work? How do your Strategic talents contribute to those best days? How can you have more of those days?
  • Where do you see yourself a year from now? What is the best path you will take to get there? What is your backup plan?
  • How can you get involved in the strategic visioning process for your department or your organization?
  • What is something fun you are planning for the upcoming year?
  • What is the greatest value your Strategic talents contribute to your team? How have you communicated that to your manager or team leader?

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Al Winseman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic and Command.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030