The world is filled with outstanding leaders. Leaders who have faced adversity, who have defied all odds, who their people love to work with.
I’m going to make an assumption. I’m going to assume that you would love to be one of those leaders (if you’re not already, of course). Taking assumption away, my experience of talking to CEOs, senior managers and anyone in a position of power tells me that leaders often wonder how others are doing it. How they remain inspirational in times of crisis. How they naturally ooze authenticity and charisma.
They may just be thinking the same about you.
Pretty much every leader, at some point, has considered how to be a good leader. They’ve taken time to ask themselves how they can improve their leadership skills and help move their people and their organisation to the next level. They may have Googled it – searching for the leadership characteristics that can help them develop.
What they don’t often look at is the skills they already have. The ones they have honed throughout their career – the traits that come so naturally to them. And I can’t understand why.
We are well known as a self-critical society, taking our own strengths in our stride and focussing on what we are not good at, rather than what we are. It’s often only in an interview situation you’ll seriously consider what your key strengths are. This is the first step to development.
Let’s look at three outstanding leaders
Richard Branson – probably one of the most famous leaders of current years, Sir Richard Branson is known globally for his tenacious yet authentic leadership style. He’s brave and he’s honest, and the combination of the two has made him an enviable business man and leader.
Angela Merkel – having been a permanent fixture in European politics for over a decade, Angela Merkel has broken records as being named Forbe’s most powerful woman in the world ten times. She is well known for being a master of leading from behind, and has used her compassion to make change happen.
Nelson Mandela – a true visionary, Nelson Mandela was optimistic and a man of peace. He fought adversity with outstanding endurance, and remained humble and patient throughout.
Three very different leaders, but what they all have in common? They’re famous for their key strengths.
Every leader of this magnitude has become celebrated for a crucial personal trait that they have used in their careers. So how can you join that list?
It’s time for a change
If you haven’t already, establish what you’re great at. Not what you can do well when you work hard at it, but start with what comes naturally. Perhaps you are genuinely authentic, always being open and honest when others hide away. Maybe your strength lies in building relationships, being trusted and liked. Or perhaps you are extremely passionate about your business, inspiring people to buy into your strategy.
Regardless of which of these (or any other) leadership qualities is your strength, it’s time to capitalise on it.
It’s time for leaders to start establishing what they’re really good at and getting even better at it.
Nurturing good leadership qualities
You may ask, that’s all well and good, but how do I do that?
If you’re struggling to identify any areas of improvement, perhaps a great place to start would be 360 degree feedback. This way, you can find out what your peers and your team really think, and areas that they can see for improvement.
When you are clear on this, there are a number of options available. Coaching and mentoring are both extremely useful tools that can help you to truly focus on one area of development. Finding a great mentor can be difficult, but ask around your network for recommendations.
Research a leadership development programme that either places focus on your key skill, or can be tailored to do so. Don’t be surprised if you’re not the only one in your organisation who is looking to develop their strengths. Perhaps you can all come together and find the perfect solution?
It’s also worth approaching your L&D department or external L&D partner to discuss any resources they may have to help you develop. You may be surprised what supporting tools they have at their disposal.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx and another amazing woman who made it onto the ‘Forbes most powerful women’ list has two great quotes, which I hope sum up the importance of worrying less about weaker skills.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
“The smartest thing I ever did was to hire my weakness.”
Know yourself. Know your strengths. Know success.
Rachel Matthews, Social Media and Marketing Manager
In my blogs I will look at industry constraints and issues and problems that employees face in their day-to-day work lives.
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