Good Leaders Know Their Strengths

With national focus on emotional intelligence in leadership, (or the lack thereof), I thought it would be a good time to reinforce the premise of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. So often, leaders are clueless as to their actual strengths, believing that because they have been successful, they must be great at everything. This is one of the biggest leadership fallacies and potentially the most damaging.

First, if a leader assumes they are good at everything, there will be areas of the organization that are ill-served and poorly run because of this lack of self-awareness. Second, everyone often assumes that what the leader believes is true, creating more confusion and mistaken assumptions. Ultimately, we have a situation like our national stage where everyone is talking behind the leader’s back and admitting the reality, but never to his face. This is unproductive at the very least and dangerous at its worst.

Good leaders, on the other hand, know what they are good at and what they are not. They rise to power by surrounding themselves with those who are good at the things they are not naturally talented at and focus on what only they can do. Good leaders admit when they have weaknesses and show the team that it’s okay, it will be covered by those who have that particular strength. I have not worked with a successful leader yet who has not recognized what they cannot do well – and more importantly – they know exactly what they can.

StrengthsFinder says that we are all born with talents. With hard work and practice, training and coaching, these talents become real strengths. We can only lead from an area of strength, not from an area of weakness. When leaders try to lead from weakness, it’s like a see-through shower curtain and it’s not pretty. Everyone averts their eyes but knows what it looks like. Employees and teams in any organization WANT to believe their leader knows what he or she is doing – so leaders are given the benefit of the doubt right out of the gate. However, the shower curtain becomes more and more clear after only a short period of time watching the leader bumble through strategies, tasks, and talks.  Then confidence is gone for all but the most fervent followers who continue to look through a very fogged up curtain.

As the leader, it’s up to you to become more self-aware. Really be honest with yourself about what you do well and what you don’t. By surrounding yourself with others who fill in the gaps, you create a winning team and strategy. But mostly, you teach others how to self-assess. You teach them that not every leader is created equal, that everyone has unique and different talents. Having a weakness is not fatal. Knowing your leadership strengths and leading through them is a gift to your team every day about how they can be more successful.