Having been in leadership for a variety of organisations for the last 30 years I am intrigued by what makes a good leader. One quality that I have observed is that all leaders need self awareness, part of the journey to being effective is to spend some time working out what makes you tick. When we are placed in a leadership context there will be increased demands put you, its just like being put in a pressure cooker, you will be tested!
Lead from your strengths. Your probably leading because someone has spotted some of your key attributes. You will have some skills, some unique expereiences, some knowledge, some personality trait that are needed for this time in your organisation. Make the most of what you’ve got, as the expression goes “if you have got it flaunt it”! Be confident in your strengths, they are the very attributes that got you to where you are. I have seen highly skilled leaders get caught up on their deficiencies, get obsessed by trying to operate in an arena where they are not strong in order to please others, it’s a waste of energy and talent. Where you are strong is where you can contribute, your leadership is defined by your strengths.
Build a team that covers your weaknesses. Of course we have areas that we are not that good at. When you read a job advert for a leadership role, the job poster often seems to require superhuman abilities. Now admittedly a leader probably has moments when they believe they are superhuman, but when you are out of the glare of your adoring public, I’m sure your sober self will be able to identify more than a few weaknesses. Now I’m all for personal growth and development and there may well be a significant aspect of your current role than needs a skill or piece of knowledge to perform better. But don’t waste too much energy on trying to change your weakness into a strength, instead find great people that are skilled and motivated in the very areas you are not. Leadership is not really about doing it yourself, afterall its always quicker and easier in the short to term to take a task and do it yourself. Leadership is about investing yourself in others, find and develop the talent in your organisation to excel in all your weaker areas and then go further, invest your strengths into other people.
Heal up ‘life hurts’. We don’t often divulge to our colleagues the issues in life that have wounded us or have shaped us detrimentally. In most organsiations those vulnerabilities are private, and probably should remain private. However, life hurts can potentially trip us up as a leader. The need to be liked by others, the type of person that reminds you of someone who hurt you, the nagging insecurities that don’t ever go away. My encouragement to any leader is not to allow past wounds to define your present. Some people are able to supress their wounds, others can use them as a catapult to give them the energy to succeed. You will have heard the stories of successful entrepreneurs who have used their poor enducation or disrupted family background as a engine to power to success in their lives. However, past failures or wounds can come back to haunt us as a leader. Like water and cold on a rock face has the power to break the ediface, so when the pressure is applied to the cracks of life, if left unattended our life hurts can shatter us. Can I encourge leaders to seek out some coaching, some counselling, some support for your vulnerabilities? Its showing real strength as a leader to deal with your vulnerabilies. Attend to your hurts, get those wounds cleaned and let healing happen. You’ll be a stronger leader if you do.
Lead from your strengths – build team to cover your weaknesses – heal up lifes hurts.