For the last few years, emphasis has no longer been put unto developing leadership knowledge, leadership skills and leadership competencies in the workplace but unto developing your talents, your strengths and purpose in order to pursue leadership positions.
What is the main difference between knowledge, skills, competencies, talents and strengths?
On one hand, knowledge (the fact of knowing something), skills (the ability to perform tasks well at your job or in a given situation) and competencies (the ability to master the skills that you perform well at your job or in a situation) are learnt and developed at school or at work, through training and practise.
On the other hand, your talents are inherent, last a lifetime and make you unique. They cannot be acquired or forgotten throughout life. By means of your talents, you are innately hardwired to think, feel and speak a certain way, to react in a particular manner to a given situation or event.
Finally, strengths are the combination of skills, knowledge and talent. As sure as recognizing the different types of coworkers possible in the workplace remains a knowledge, getting along with coworkers and navigating office politics become skills, communicating effectively and influencing coworkers and clients are talents. Subsequently, possessing the ability to take command, impose your views and take charge on a project emerge as a strength.
Defining your strengths early in life is critical for personal development, self fulfillment and career success. Indeed, assessing your strengths will enable you to:
- appreciate your self-worth, reinforce your values and your motivations.
- understand your strength, its nuances, its impact at work and consequences on coworkers. For instance, visionary leaders don’t always know how to properly explain their vision which leaves their team members confused and uncertain of the leadership capabilities of the visionary leader.
- evaluate your role and contributions at work. This way, you will not be taken advantage of and you will find out early whether or not you are fulfilled by a career path, if you are performant or if you are made for leadership.
- be more effective, positively influence career decisions and improve your career by actually mastering these strengths. Strenghts assessment becomes suddenly critical when accepting or refusing a promotion.
- assist, be assisted by coworkers or team members with a complementing set of skills. If you are a team leader, acknowledging your strengths will make you more aware of your team member’s.
- invest in an environment that fits your thinking pattern and use less energy while sustainably performing a task.
- gauge your weaknesses and possible blindspots. determining your weaknesses enables a better self-assessment, a way to work around them or simply avoid them. Accept the weaknesses as much as you do the strengths but don’t overwork your weaknesses either: correcting your weaknesses will never be as effective as improving your pre-existent strengths. A common mistake, that I have mostly noticed during performance reviews, lies in the fact that managers stress, more than often, the flaws of an employee and urge them to fix their weaknesses instead of pointing out their strengths and placing them where they would be more productive.
- Extend the vision of yourself, the limit of who you are and what you can do. Be adventurous and step outside of your comfort zone.
- express personal truths, steer away from social pressure and conforming to social norms.
Many times, and we have all seen it, people who do not discover their strength or do not use them, tend to be depressed, anxious, bored and unmotivated. They also interact negatively with their coworkers, complain about their job, underperform and are ultimately labeled “difficult”.
Wasting a lifetime in a dead-end job, they feel forced to counter their instincts and to comply to conventional thoughts and rules which is unnatural and counterproductive to them.
It is easier to describe or identify an acquired professional competency than to identify a natural strength.
How to quickly find your strengths?
Due to their innate nature, strengths are easily noticeable to everyone but you. But if you pay close attention to your everyday, you will be able to discover or rediscover them:
- by renewing your thought pattern. Don’t give up on yourself and your self growth. Make up your mind not to live your life on the side walk. Most people spend time improving their flaws and not their strengths. It is clear that they would have been further if they did otherwise.
- by reverting back to the memories of your childhood and recalling what you did well and with pleasure. On account of, at that period, the “system” had not affected nor perverted you yet: the main personality traits and what you were gifted with at a younger age remained unchanged.
- by looking for a common thread in the things that immediately and sustainably attract your attention throughout your life experiences. I usually spend my time reading entrepreneur, management and leadership books and blogs at any hour of the day.
- by reading books, gaining knowledge, relating to the people in the books and by practicing what you have just learnt on different occasions.
- by engaging a professional to help identify your strengths and how to employ them.
- by taking well-known online tests, such as StrenghtsFinder2.0 and StandOut, and cross referencing them.
- by directly asking the people closest to you, going through your notes and emails or by taking into account your annual performance review. Because of the dark side of human nature, your review as much as people’s advice can be totally biased. There will certainly be a discrepancy between what people think of me, what I think of myself and who I really am.
- by surrounding yourself with supporting people. Stay away from yes men, undermining people or groups who hide your strengths, highlights your weaknesses and constantly criticize your work.
- by simply seeking the truth about yourself and being unafraid of failure or the said truth. Work gradually on yourself and you will be able to build a career more successfully on a strength.
Last words of advice!
First of all, improving strengths is nothing without character.
Talent doesn’t have to be impressive and loud but you must find a way to translate it into something. Sometimes, through life, you are using your strength unknowingly until you are prepared to use it: your passions have probably made you invest enough time into a career path to develop the necessary skills and knowledge. However, if your strength does not fit any career, create one for yourself!
Remember not to feel limited to having one talent and make up your mind not to live your life on the side-walk. And leave your dreams and connect with them.
Don’t hesitate to become an expert of you!
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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