I want to talk about strength, however, I’m not talking about how many pounds you can lift. Instead, I’m talking about your mental, emotional, and even spiritual strengths. How when you lead from those strengths that you will see a marked improvement in your effectiveness, your joy in leading, and the joy your team members feel when under your leadership.
I listened to a podcast recently has has got to be one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard. It was an interview with Marcus Buckingham on the EntreLeadership Podcast from May 5th of this year. Marcus is the author of the book StandOut and the creator of the accompanying online strengths assessment tool.
Marcus gave great insight during the interview and I could not stop taking notes. I think I even said amen a few times! He spoke about ideas that I believe all of us know intuitively and yearn for but haven’t ever been able to form into words. I think the fact that he’s English makes everything he says sound smarter too.
After reviewing my notes, I found 4 takeaways from the interview that I believe will change the way you and I lead. These were all based on quotes from Marcus.
1. You’ve Got to Study Whatever It Is That You Want to Create More Of
In the world, information has never been more readily available to the masses. This is a great thing for us as leaders. Take this podcast I listened to for example. Nothing like this was as easily available 8 years ago. You actually had to search and hope to find a YouTube video (if who you were looking for even had a page) or subscribe to a service.
Podcasts, YouTube, and other digital content have put the information we’re looking for at our fingertips. Although, it is really difficult to surpass the value reading a book can offer. In a book, you have a person’s best thoughts written down and there for you to study over and over. So, there are no more excuses for not being educated on whatever interests you.
2. Authenticity is More Important Than Perfection for a Leader
As leaders, let’s be honest, we hate to make mistakes. We want to be the one that knows what do you, that knows what to say, that knows what course to take. While the drive behind those desires is most likely a key reason that we are in positions of leadership, it can become an Achilles heel to our leadership if we don’t realize a simple truth — we’re human and imperfect by nature.
The amazing thing is that if we will stop pretending to be perfect and lead from our humanity, then we will actually be better leaders and we will see the change in those we lead. We will endear ourselves to our followers and earn credibility when we remove ourselves from the perfection pedestal.
3. Find a Way to Adapt or Maneuver Your Job to Play More to Your Strengths
When Marcus spoke about this idea, he spoke about the perception many of us have had when looking at a person that holds a job that looks like it was custom tailored for them. Almost like they were born for just that job. He said that the truth is that they took an ordinary job and made it extraordinary by adapting the given job to use more of their given strengths.
The best example I can think of personally is from my time spent as a recruiter at an university. It had a few tasks that I could do well from the get go, but gradually I took on responsibilities that used way more of my strengths and experiences and that made my time there much more enjoyable.
I took on a role as a liaison to the athletics department (I have an athletic and coaching background), I was able to create newsletters for international admissions and the first ever admissions newsletter for the university (I’ve done various forms of creative media for a decade), I also did some light tech support for the department (I worked in IT as a student at that same university). So, how can you start shaping your job now to use more of your strengths?
4. The Best Leaders are Sharp, Not Well Rounded
Marcus said that teams are well rounded, but the individuals in the team should not be. This one actually was contrary to a lot of what I’ve heard growing up about how the “best” leaders or people for that matter should be like. However, when you think about it, the very best leaders are sharp. They are only good at 1 or 2 things, but they are VERY good at those 1-2 things.
Think about Michael Jordan for a minute. The best basketball player in NBA history was only a mediocre baseball player. Steve Jobs, creator of Apple, was a brilliant creator, inventor, and visionary, however, his people skills were severely lacking. We can go on and on.
So, what are the 1-2 things that you do so well that you are above the competition from the get go? Now go develop those to the point that you are almost untouchable in those areas.
Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, advocates this type of focused development. He says that we should devote about 80-85 percent of our time to developing our strengths. While we should only give about 5-10 percent to improving our weakness. This is because, as Marcus Buckingham pointed out, we have the most room for growth and development in our strengths and not our weakness.
I’ll finish with this… I have taken the StandOut assessment and found it to be deeply insightful and helpful. It was introduced to me by a friend that is leading a large team in the hospitality industry and has been using this tool for some time. I will post a link to my results under my About page so that you can see what this tool can offer you as a leader.
The assessment only takes 20-25 minutes. Now go and lead with your strength!