May 2015 Executive Intelligent Blog
Our talents are not equal. We each have strengths and weakness that we demonstrate in the various areas of our lives. Take leadership, for example. Do you know what your strengths are as a leader and how they help your efforts? Many leaders know one or a few of their strengths. For example, I bet you can identify things like: "I am good at getting people to listen." "People do what I say." "People always come to me for help." "I make decisions quickly." "I explain to people all the reasons and logic for their work."
All of the examples reflect useful attributes for leaders, under particular circumstances. And, those attributes can also be a detriment at times. If you think your strengths can't have a downside and you don't use them with discretion, you may find that your strengths are also your weaknesses. When they are relied on too heavily, our positive qualities can dominate our leadership repertoire and not leave room for other important leader attributes. In the previous examples, could team members' perspectives generate the following concerns: "How approachable do they consider you?" "Do they know what your vision is and do they support it?" "Do they feel empowered to do their work and take responsibility for it?" "How often do you consider information from others, additional possibilities and facts?" "How often do you listen to people and allow them to contribute?" These questions also reflect valuable practices of leaders.
Unfortunately, it seems that our strengths in leadership serve us in ways that do not serve us at other times. Do you know which is which? Regularly, it can be difficult to discern. You see, not only can our attributes, our individual propensities for thinking, feeling, and behaving, work for us, they can also work against us. Gallup's research reveals, in "Now, Discover Your Strengths", light shining onto this issue. They note that people tend toward using their talents too often, at the wrong time, and too strongly, rendering what was a strength into a flaw. Take the example of a woman who is skillful at asserting her position. There is a point in situations when asserting one's position no longer is useful. In time, if she does not stop her assertion and look for openings to bring the interaction around via compromise or negotiation, her talent at assertion is being overused and is now working against skillful problem-solving and desirable resolution.
Ultimately, all of us are better at some things, than we are at other things. It is very useful to know where our individual talents lie. But, then what? The next step is to for us to exercise strengths with precision and finesse, not using them at the wrong time or letting them build up too much momentum.
Happy Strengths Finessing!