Research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman indicates there are five clusters of strengths that should be developed in order to be perceived as a great leader. In our Effective Utility Management workshops, our participants conduct a Strengths & Weaknesses Assessment and are encouraged to focus on developing their strengths by completing a Personal Development Plan. We don’t ignore weaknesses altogether. Instead, we encourage leaders and managers to find appropriate ways to compensate for their weaknesses. Focusing on improving weaknesses usually results in making the leader uniformly average. Focusing on strengths allows the leader to become extremely effective.
Great leadership is not defined by the absence of weaknesses. Great leadership is defined by the presence of clearly identifiable strengths.
5 Strength Areas of Focus
To become a great leader, you must spend your limited time focused on building your strengths. The five clusters of strengths to focus on building are:
- Personal Capability
- Focus on Results
- Interpersonal Skills
- Leading Change
These five areas can be thought of as the poles supporting your leadership tent.
Character is the center pole around which all other strengths must be built. There are many different ways to define character. One definition is “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Another one is “the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves: someone’s personality.” For our purposes, let’s just simplify things and say that your character is who you really are. How you are perceived by others is a combination of what you think, say and do.
To be perceived as a great leader, we will need to ensure integrity, ethical standards, and authenticity are elements of our character. We can develop these characteristics by changing our thoughts, words and actions. Each of these three – thoughts, words and actions – work together and influence the others. To grow into a person of character, make a conscious decision daily to think, act, and speak as an authentic person with integrity and high ethical standards.
Your personal capability is your intellectual, emotional and skill makeup. It includes your technical and professional expertise, your ability to analyze and solve problems, your innovation, and your self-development. All leaders are learners and self-development should become a natural part of your daily life. What can you improve upon that will give you and your organization the most leverage? Do you need to work on problem solving? Are you technically competent in your field? Remember, you don’t have to be good at everything, but you do need to be great at a few things? On what few things will you focus on and become great?
Focus on Results
Leaders and managers are paid to get results. You may be a wonderful person and liked by everyone, but if you don’t produce sustained results, you are not a great leader. Great leaders have the ability to take responsibility for the outcomes of their teams, establish stretch goals, and drive for results. Basically, this is your ability to have an impact on your team and the organization.
Great leaders have good people skills. Much of leadership centers around communication and its impact on individuals and teams. Interpersonal skills include the ability to communicate powerfully and prolifically, the ability to inspire and motivate others to high performance, the ability to build relationships, the ability to develop others, and the ability to collaborate and be part of a team. Which one or two areas listed here can you develop and build on? Remember, it’s always better to start with a strength a develop it rather than trying to fix a weakness.
Leading Organizational Change
If nothing changes, there is no need for leadership. A good caretaker manager will do. It’s only when an organization wants to make some positive change on a path toward improvement that leaders are needed. Leading change is the highest and most difficult expression of leadership. It includes having a strategic perspective, championing change and having the ability to connect internal groups to the outside world.
Depending on your position in the organization, you may or may not be in a position where this strength is needed. However, whether or not you are the one responsible for initiating change, you can develop and demonstrate your leadership ability by being part of the change management team.
Fixing Fatal Flaws
With all of this talk about building on strengths, we usually get questions like “what should I do about my weaknesses?” As we’ve said before, in general, you should find ways to manage your weakness rather than spending your limited time improving them. The one exception is if one of your weaknesses falls into the category of Fatal Flaws. These must be fixed immediately. I’ll address the Five Fatal Flaws and how to fix them in the next post. In the meantime, you can click on the link and download list of the flaws and how to fix them.