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Self-Leadership: Strengthen Your Strengths

Note: This resource is part of our Moving the Bar in Your Career and Your Life, a unique approach to professional development series: My 3 Ps: Passion, Purpose, Potential. Click here to see the entire series.

Leadership. Most people think of leading others when they hear or read the word, but self-leadership is even more important. How can you effectively lead others (whether on the job or at home) if you are not effectively living your own life? As I work with clients on leadership development, a large part of those efforts is focused on understanding what they are best at and then leveraging those strengths to perform at a higher level by being authentic to themselves. Let’s look at this more closely.

We were each created with unique qualities and abilities. No one else can do what you do, just as you do it. But do you really know your strengths? An honest and comprehensive self-assessment, whether using a formal diagnostic tool or not, is necessary to be more aware of your attitudes, your behaviors, and what makes you "tick". This awareness will also allow you to better understand how people see you and help you improve your relationships and dealings with others. The saying that "Illumination is 80% of remediation" helps us realize how important this personal "look in the mirror" can be. As you achieve a better understanding of your strengths, it is important to realize that no matter how developed you are in these areas, there is always room for improvement. Further developing your strengths, and using them more often, will make them even more valuable and help you be more successful.

Yet, often, people neglect their strengths and focus more on their weaknesses and skills they don’t have. My friend Jay Niblick, president of Innermetrix, likes to say that "We possess talents, but we manufacture weaknesses." Similarly, Peter Drucker has challenged us to "make our weaknesses irrelevant". The point is that none of us can be great at all things, and to try to be so is frustrating, time-consuming and, at times, self-defeating. Find the personal and professional situations and environments that allow you to use your strengths and accentuate the positive, instead of focusing on your weaknesses and the negative. An expert in the field, Dr. Robert Hartman once said, "Instead of trying to put in what God left out, [work] with what He put in." In a research poll of millions of workers, only one-third reported that they were engaged in the kind of work they do best. It’s no wonder so many businesses are characterized by apathy and mediocrity instead of passion and excellence.

So, first, identify your strengths and then work to strengthen and make them more valuable. You will achieve better outcomes and experience more enjoyment and satisfaction as a result. Focus on the positive and what you are good at and don’t devote too much of your time and energy shoring up your weaknesses. As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach to Fortune 500 CEOs, has said: "There are a lot of things I stink at. I just make sure I don’t have to do them to be successful."