Too often leaders focus on weaknesses rather than strengths. Starting at an early age whether intentional or not focus is put on weaknesses. A report card with 3 A’s, 2 B’s and a C will likely generate a response “Why did you get a C?”. The focus was put on the weakness, a C grade and not on the strength 3 A’s and 2 B’s. This type of mentality follows us into the workplace.
You should not ignore weaknesses and you should continue to try and overcome them. But do not become so obsessed with them that you ignore the strengths.
Leading with strength will take you from the negative environment of leading by fear to a positive environment that is beneficial to both you and your team members. Leading with strength is about building up, not tearing down. It is a far more effective method of improving your team and yourself.
There are five key strengths that you should develop or improve that will allow you to start leading with strength.
Enthusiasm is the physical and psychological energy we feel when we are doing something we love. It is the positive feeling you get about a new project or new challenge. It is one of the most important strengths you can have. When times are tough this enthusiasm can carry you through the tough times. Often we feel our enthusiasm is slipping away. We just do not feel the energy that we once had. At this time it is important to go back to the well from which you draw your enthusiasm and fill it again. If you do not burn out is just around the corner.
Personally I love challenges. Nothing gets my enthusiasm going more than a new challenge or a job that is critical and must be done right away. As soon as one comes up I can feel the energy rising to meet the challenge.
Curiosity is our perceptions of not only things in the external world, but in our internal world as well. Curiosity enlivens our mind and keeps us from becoming bored with our work and our life. It is your drive to know more and to leverage your knowledge in innovative and important ways. Our curiosity keeps us in the flow of the work where we feel like we can do it forever.
The strength of curiosity can be applied in your work by seeking to use your knowledge to improve what you are working on. How can we do it better? How can we do it cheaper? How can we bring a better value to the business with this project? This requires you to focus on new things that keep your curiosity enlivening.
Optimism is an emotional strength that allows you to interpret your problems as transient, limited to the situation at hand and controllable. In a highly competitive or stressful environment (such as IT) you can over think a problem or situation.
People can begin to doubt their optimistic strength which can lead to pessimism. When you noticed you are trapped in this loop of over thinking a problem distract yourself in whatever way works best for you. Get up and walk around or go interact with others on a topic not related to the problem. This will help you break the cycle of over thinking and keep your optimism from being drained.
Gratitude is the most potent of the these five key strengths. Gratitude should be done regularly, but randomly and it must be genuine. Nothing can come off worse than gratitude that is not sincere. This is why it is an important strength.
To have genuine gratitude towards others and for things in your life provides the affirmation team members seek and the personal affirmation that we all need to maintain a positive attitude which also relates to our strength of optimism. Gratitude has a powerful positive effect on those your work with and for yourself personally. People who have no gratitude can find it difficult to be optimistic.
Many of us find it easier to give appreciation that to receive it. Has anyone ever asked you “Can’t you take a compliment”? We often find it difficult to accept affirmation that is coming towards us, but in reality we need it. On the other side showing appreciation is vital particularly in team situations. Research has shown the number one reason people leave their job is because they do not feel that their work is appreciated.
The ability to give positive feedback to your team members is very important. Team members want to hear is that they are doing a good job. They need that affirmation from management and research shows that 65% of those surveyed said they had received no appreciation for the work that they do in the previous year at their work.
Using Your Strengths
Once you have established your strengths you need to apply them to your work. Do not try to jump in and use every strength at once. Rather take small incremental steps in applying them. By nature the human mind is resistant to change and our minds will resist too much change at one time.
Take the Kaizen approach of slow, but continuous improvement. Pick a strength and slowly start to apply it to your life and your work. While many of the five strengths listed here may sound alike, each serves a specific purpose and when blended they can lead to a much more positive work environment for yourself and your team members.
Leaders who lead with strength build positive relationships with those they work with and those who work for them. They also take these positive strengths and apply them to their personal life. Excellent leaders lead with strength, not by fear.