I’ve coached scores of senior executives and hundreds of MBAs and undergraduate business students over the past two decades.
One of my favorite leadership tools is Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. I don’t make a dime in royalties by using it, so trust me that it’s one of the best ways to enhance your both leadership and career toolkits. Using this tool along with my own tools, I’ve helped scores of individuals get promotions and find great new jobs by highlighting their strengths in their resumes, elevator pitches, and interviews.
Indeed, I believe that managing your own career effectively goes hand in hand with developing yourself as a leader, and that begins by demonstrating courage, humility, and authenticity. Knowing your strengths gives you the courage to take on greater responsibilities in your current position, or seek new opportunities elsewhere if you’re not being properly recognized and rewarded by your current organization. Knowing your strengths will also help you identify your weaknesses, which is critical for humility and keeping courage from becoming arrogance or foolhardiness. Finally, all great leaders challenge the status quo, build diverse teams as well as cultures based on trust, and demonstrate consistent bottom-line results authentically, based on their unique combination of strengths.
Don’t just take my word for it. Professor Syd Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Leadership Center at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has found that the world’s most successful bosses develop their people by focusing on”growth opportunities tailored to the ambitions, talents, and capacities of each person.” So, if you want to get noticed by your CEO, and become one yourself someday, it pays to focus on your strengths.
Moreover, companies such as Facebook, Intuit, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and retailer Zappos.com Inc are increasingly focusing on strengths/talents rather than specific skills through what is being called “program hiring.” You should be doing the same, i.e., by assessing the fit between your own strengths and career goals with what your current organization or prospective employers say they need and reward.
So, what are strengths? Gallup has identified four domains or categories: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking, comprising 34 distinct strengths:
Leaders with Executing strengths know how to make things happen, and those with Influencing strengths help their team reach a much broader audience. Those who lead with Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together, and those with Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be.“
My own coaching and consulting has found that most individuals have strengths in two of the four domains, whereas great teams and organizations possess a variety of strengths across all four domains. Great leaders, then, are those who forge teams that comprise all four kinds of strengths. Equally important, these leaders build the mutual trust that is essential for individuals to combine their strengths in complementary and innovative ways, and for them to help one another offset their weaknesses.
To become a great leader, you need to first fashion a great career. Start with your strengths.