Leaders should focus on their strengths. Why write an article about something so obvious? Because most personal development plans focus on addressing the gaps in a leader’s skill/behavior set. Isn’t that true? When leaders participate in assessment for development, invariably the feedback discussions focus on how they can make up a lack, rather than build on their strengths. There is absolutely nothing wrong in identifying development gaps. Indeed, I invariably practice this when coaching leaders. But the biggest differentiator in leadership is accentuating strengths rather than addressing weaknesses. That isn’t to say that blind spots, over-played strengths, or critical deficiencies can’t be derailers.
Recently when coaching a senior leader, he shared with me that one of his greatest weaknesses was large group presentations. This leader is a superb conversationalist and a very warm human being, as well as being a very effective business leader. I offered him a suggestion that he might turn the tables on expectations for the presentation set-up to work in line with his strengths. “Why not tell a story, be more conversational, have a fireside chat environment, be interviewed …. anything but standing behind a lectern delivering a presentation.” He started his presentation with a story, which not only resonated enormously with the audience, but also helped him slow down, become more comfortable, and deliver a much more confident presentation.
- It’s no accident why you are a leader
Becoming a leader of others often means that individuals have demonstrated abilities and performance to warrant them being asked to lead others. Whatever these skills are, it means that a leader has a gift that adds value. They may still need development as a leader and as a contributor, but their track-record has earned them status.
A leader might have strategic insight, professional expertise, or inspirational talent. Whatever their differentiation, it has had an impact on those around them and still does. Making this unique talent even more impactful is how to maximize their potential and deliver higher value.
- Strengths distinguish, weaknesses dilute
Individuals are known for their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s often the strengths that leave the greatest legacy. It’s the same for organizations – some are great at volume, some specialize, some are acquisitive, some are geographically focused, etc. Almost all geniuses have their flaws – some very major ones. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that they are geniuses!
Leaders who focus only on developing the gaps in their skills/behaviors are in danger of becoming average. Leaders who take every opportunity to play to their strengths, mindful of developing their gaps, are the leaders who rise to the top. Of course, the great leaders are those who surround themselves with others who have strengths where they do not.
- The world needs strong leaders
If you have had the experience of being led by someone who hesitates, lacks confidence, and who fails to inspire, you will understand this last point very well. The world needs strong leaders. By “the world”, I mean companies, nations, families, teams, and organizations of any sort. Being led by someone who demonstrates conviction, courage, and compassion, is to feel the power of a leader with vision and gravitas.
Leaders who step up and inspire followers are essential to propel people and organizations forwards. They often have belief, wisdom, and empathy … or even if they only have one of these in abundance, they still leave their mark.
There will often be reasons to pick up on a leader’s deficiencies. There will invariably be development gaps that leaders need to address. But there is always a need for leaders whose strengths are the reasons why they are recognized, rewarded, and respected.