A very interesting question was posed to me recently – ‘As a Leader, do you focus on your strengths and attempt to capitalise on them, or do you look to identify your weaknesses, and work on developing and improving these?’ A fascinating question, and one that I will ask you. What do you focus on? Your strengths, or do you focus on where your weaknesses are, and areas for improvement?
As I reflect over the last 10 years of my Sales Leadership career, my experience has been that many leaders actually do try and identify where their weaknesses are and seek to develop strategies to ‘plug the gaps’ and try to improve their leadership. And this guidance has often come from very well meaning mentors and leaders, who had been taught the same approach as they were developing their leadership career. The problem though is that often these leaders become less effective as their focus is too much on their shortcomings, with the end result being that their performance and results drop, as does that of their team.
My mentors have always articulated to me that to be an effective leader, you must focus on and capitalise on your strengths and bring in people to cover any weaknesses. And this is supported by extensive research – according to Gallup, after researching over 1million teams, and conducting 20,000 interviews with leaders and 10,000 interviews with followers, they discovered that not 1 leader had world class strength in all 4 key leadership categories ; Execution, Influence, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. In fact, they discovered that those leaders who focussed their attention on developing high competency and excellence in all 4 categories, actually became the least effective of all.
So what does this mean? There is a very strong case for a principle called ‘Strength based leadership’ and this is what the most effective leaders focus on. This is what they do:
- They recognise and acknowledge their strengths. They identify what they are very strong & effective at, and then they commit themselves to becoming world class in that area. They will then continue to invest in this strength and ultimately use this to drive up their team’s engagement and performance.
- They are exceptionally good at identifying what their team’s needs are. They have a unique ability to pin point the needs of the team and the individuals within the team, and then work through identifying how their leadership strengths will further develop these needs. Their focus is always on how they can assist and serve their team in developing.
- They surround themselves with high quality people, many of whom have strengths that the leader does not have high capability in. Then they maximise these strengths and drive up the team performance. And the end result of this? They begin to develop other leaders, and lay the foundation for their leadership legacy.
- They remain true to who they are. The leader does not pretend to be someone they are not and therefore they maintain a high level of integrity and authenticity that only adds to their leadership. Their people therefore have a higher level of certainty because their leader is certain, and focussed.
- They are humble and will openly admit where they lack capability. Whilst others may see this as a weakness, it is actually a massive strength of a leader and will often lead to them building higher levels of trust and respect within their team. The result? Their leadership capability continues to increase, as does the empowerment of the team, and ultimately, the performance of the team.
So whether you are brand new to leadership, or a very experienced leader, take a step back and think about what your core leadership strengths are, as well as where you are less strong (dare I say weak?). Once you have identified these, set yourself the challenge to continue to develop your strengths and capitalise on them, and become a world class ‘strengths based leader’. And most importantly, identify and surround yourself with people who have great strengths where you don’t, and encourage them to develop and capitalise on these. When you do that, not only will you develop a strong leadership brand for yourself, you will also develop other leaders, which when it is all said and done, is really what leadership is all about!!
To your continue leadership success!!
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Thank you for taking the time to read this post – I greatly appreciate it, and welcome comments and feedback. Please feel free to comment below, to follow me on LinkedIn, or to connect via Twitter or Facebook.
Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.