Leading with Your Strengths: How to Be Your Best You

This week, I asked a colleague of mine, Lisa Penn, to contribute a post to Front and Centered as our first official guest blogger. Lisa is a Managing Director within SEI’s Private Banking group, supporting 40 clients and leading a team of 11 individuals. I have been fortunate enough to work with Lisa for Penn-sm1the past 12 years. In addition to her “day job,” Lisa has an innate ability to coach and mentor co-workers, friends and family and she is an avid believer in Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. If you are not familiar, StrengthsFinder is an assessment that helps individuals identify what they do best and it is based on the philosophy that employees who utilize their strengths within their jobs are more engaged, more productive and happier.

While many at SEI have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (and I wholeheartedly believe in its value), Lisa is our resident “strengths expert.” In fact, she is currently pursuing an opportunity to become a certified Gallup Strengths Coach. I am really excited to share with our readers Lisa’s unique perspective around the impact of knowing your own strengths.

As Al Chiaradonna often says, leadership is not about having a title – it’s about having influence. And he is in good company; the sentiment echoes that of Gallup Senior Scientist and author Tom Rath, who says, “You’re a leader of an organization if others follow.”

Let’s think about the qualities of a good leader. I’m sure you can think of several off the top of your head, including someone who:

  • Thinks strategically
  • Sets priorities and gets things done
  • Builds strong teams
  • Influences those around him or her to follow a new course

Leaders tend to excel in one of four domains of leadership strength: executing, influencing, relationship building, or strategic thinking. This is actually good news – it means that if strategy is not your strong suit, it doesn’t preclude you from leading. In fact, by honing in on your strengths, you can even be more of an effective and influential leader.

Great leaders do not exhibit the exact same set of common strengths. And they’re not good at everything. Instead, they actually work to be great at what they already do best.

Too many people spend too much time focused on improving their weakness, usually with marginal returns. We cannot ignore our weakness; they do need to be managed. However, our biggest impact comes from drawing from our natural strengths. Think about it – why wouldn’t you start with your naturally dominant strengths, and build on them?

What are your strengths?

For those of you who aspire to lead – or who are already doing so – it comes down to understanding where you naturally excel. I cannot stress enough the importance of self-awareness as your first step. Ask yourself these strengths-focused questions:

  • What do I really enjoy doing?
  • What can I do effortlessly?
  • What activities am I drawn to?
  • What do I do that makes time pass easily?
  • What types of information are of great interest to me, and easy for me to learn and talk about?

These questions, when honestly answered, get to the heart of your leadership strengths.

Why strengths matter

Discovering your strengths and then concentrating on them gives you the edge to perform at a level where efficiency and effectiveness naturally occurs. It really is that simple. Your job is simply a skeleton; your strength is the muscle. Your overall engagement in what you are doing increases dramatically when you are using your strengths, and you’re never more efficient, effective or happy.

As leaders, you are truly in the position to make extraordinary improvements in your organization. And when you tap into your strengths, your potential is off the charts.

And it’s not all about you. Imagine how your team could be more productive, engaged, and happy if you were focused on their strengths. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. One  Gallup study showed that when managers spend a majority of their time focusing on team members’ individual strengths, only 1 in 100 employees were “actively disengaged” in their jobs. One in 100. And this is all possible when a manager takes a strength-based approach to leading a team. (More on team strengths in an upcoming post.)

Uncover your strengths

I encourage you to delve into the nuances of what makes you, you. The unique you. The knowledge of  strengths and their application in your role positions you to do what you do best every day and lead teams to do the same.

What strengths have you used as a leader that have made you more successful?

Visit https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/ if you are interested in taking the StrengthsFinder assessment.