In the past week, two new CEOs have been appointed to premier companies. The one thing their appointments have in common: they key characteristic used to describe them or their predecessor was “strategic thinker.”

H-P brought in Leo Apotheker to take the place of Mark Hurd, who resigned this summer for not having a sexual relationship with a former marketing contractor, which seems odd on many levels. In the Wall Street Journal article “H-P Hires Ex-SAP Executive as Chief,” H-P’s lead independent director Robert Ryan lauded Mr. Apotheker as a “strategic thinker with a passion for technology.”

That very same day, the article “Rolls-Royce Names New CEO” described the retirement of John Rose, from the prestigious auto manufacturer. U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable paid tribute to Mr. Rose by writing, “As a champion of U.K. advanced manufacturing, I want to thank him for the huge contribution he’s made to strategic thinking both within business and government on growing global market share.”

We could write this off as coincidence if there weren’t dozens of other similar examples of the key feature of leading executives being strategic thinkers. Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Dan Hesse of Sprint Nextel, Jeff Kindler of Pfizer and Alan Mullaly of Ford to name just a few more. This supports three separate studies published by the American Management Association, Chief Executive Magazine and the Wall Street Journal showing that strategic thinking is now the #1 most valued skill in leaders today. Ironically, 50% of companies report that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. Guess those are the companies taking a beating in today’s economy.

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