“How can I use my greatest strengths as a leader?” There is boundless advice addressing this important question.
Ultimately leadership is personal and reflects YOUR unique strengths and personality.
A key tool I use in my professional coaching practice to help clients identify and better understand those unique strengths is the CliftonStrengths assessment. What follows is a real life description of how one of my clients applied his assessed top strengths in a leadership role.
Expressing your greatest strengths as a leader
In this interview with my past client and terrific colleague, Tim Kato, we see how his strengths naturally show up in his leadership and how he uses these to lead and manage his team. We also learn how he continuously develops his strengths.
Tim’s Signature Themes from the CliftonStrengths Assessment are:
Analytical | Responsibility | Developer | Deliberative | Relator
While your own situation may be different than Tim’s and your individual strengths and themes may not overlap exactly with his, read on for some great take-aways that apply widely to leaders.
How have you developed your greatest strengths as a leader?
1. Applying the results of my CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) assessment
I found out about the CliftonStrengths (aka StrengthsFinder) assessment through one of my volunteer roles. I got curious about it and took the assessment. Over time, I have learned more about my themes through reading and coaching. I see these show up all the time!
I am inquisitive and often want to know “why?”. My Analytical helps me use data to determine trends and evaluate what is going on. I use that information to advocate for changes that will make the work of our team better and more efficient. In some instances, when my Analytical takes over and I appraise that the situation would be better served by other leadership strengths, I have to remind “Robotical Tim” to draw on these, for instance when giving feedback.
Making sure I follow through on my commitments is really important to me and contributes to building trust. I also use my Responsibility theme to help me figure out who on the team is responsible for what.
I work on a fantastic team and firmly believe in the potential of others. The abilities and strengths of my direct reports are at the forefront of all my thinking, planning, and leading. My Developer theme is really helpful when I give feedback because I see all feedback as an opportunity to help someone else grow. I really enjoy giving kudos to people and see every interaction as a chance to do so. I think my Developer drives some of this and it is probably my favourite when I think of leading a team with my strengths.
I call this one Careful Tim and use it to help me prepare, plan ahead, and do research for team projects and initiatives. This one compels me to ask “Who will be in opposition and why?” and helps me think through my plans.
Getting to know the individuals on my team is essential for me as a leader. I do this in my one-on-ones and in group settings. For example, I’ve started to incorporate short activities at team meetings for members to get to know each other. I try to extend past the surface by also helping my direct reports get to know me. I need to be willing to put myself out there and take some risks so that individuals on my team feel safer to do so themselves.
2. Being clear on my values
I grew up in a family where being kind and seeing the potential in others was a key value. I learned early on that it was important to use the influence I had to do good. And, over time, through doing reflection on my values, I’ve identified that trust and relationships are key values of mine. These two values are at the centre of my leadership and decisions in my role as team lead.
3. Reading and learning: Insights into using my greatest strengths in leadership
I was thrust into my leadership position and the transition from peer to team lead was rapid. Quite suddenly, I was in a role where I was the appointed leader for people I had been working with side-by-side. I knew I had a lot to learn, and the learning is ongoing.
I do a number of things to grow my leadership:
- Seek out mentorship from my supervisors and other leaders
- Look for models
- Share with colleagues
- Work with a coach
- Participate in offerings and workshops through my institution
How do you help your direct reports gain awareness of their own strengths?
Nearly every interaction is an opportunity to give someone on my team kudos, share positive feedback or point out a strength I’ve seen in action recently. Perhaps because of my Developer, I enjoy focussing on strengths and helping people reflect on theirs.
As a team lead, another way I help individual contributors learn more about their strengths is by asking them what they enjoy doing and delegating tasks that align with their strengths.
What books would you recommend to people who want to develop and use their strengths as a leader?
- The Five Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey
- The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford (Tim noted that this one was good for people in IT leadership role).
Tim works as Team Lead at Learning Technology Hub, a team supporting faculty, staff, and students in the use of learning technology at the University of British Columbia. He has an extensive background in process management, incident management, problem management, communication, and customer service. Tim believes strongly in building a high level of trust both within and beyond his team.
Over to you!
Many intelligent and talented people I encounter find it difficult to see their own strengths, let alone prioritize or “promote” them effectively as they seek more leadership responsibilities (or to make other pivots in their career). It can show up as uncertainty, overwhelm, and frustration. Can you relate to this?
That’s why, in my individual coaching sessions, I support clients to identify, understand, and build on their personal strengths as part of their career journey. It’s about helping them to make wise decisions and take practical steps toward experiencing more ease and joy in their career.
If you’re ready for this type of clarity and decision-making support for your own leadership journey, I would be pleased to discuss how my individual coaching services can help you reach your career goals. First step: Book a no-pressure, complimentary consult.