"The best leaders have a good idea who they are as a person. They know their strengths and find ways to use them in their jobs every day..." from an interview with Josh Allan Dykstra, Organizational Development Specialist The concept of natural talent has always interested fascinated me - the way some people have such an obvious proclivity for music or art or sports or telling jokes or cooking or growing things or teaching... all the multitude of talents that make the world go round. And sometimes I wonder about the talents people have that go undiscovered, because I've seen talent revealed quite by chance and it causes me to think about the times that opportunity doesn't occur and someone's true talent may never be uncovered.
It seems the Gallup Organization has been extensively studying the concept of strength and strength based leadership. According to Josh Dykstra -who happens to be my friend C's son-in-law, but is also one heck of a smart young man- a strength is where "talent meets knowledge meets skills." It's about knowing who you are and what your strengths are, and then finding ways to use them in the things that you do everyday. Apparently the worlds best leaders don't necessarily share a list of similar characteristics, as you might imagine. What they do have in common is a heightened sense of self-awareness which they've parlayed into their life and work.
This information comes at an interesting time for me, because over the past several months I've been tested in my job in ways that are uncomfortable. I've kvetched about it here a few times, but in essence, my job has changed dramatically so that I'm now in a position of totally managing other people's work, while still being responsible for the final product. I've been trying to figure out why this is so difficult for me, why my stomach knots up every morning when I'm driving into the office, why I sometimes feel like crying when I sit at my desk and survey the piles of papers littered around me.
So reading about strength based activity makes me realize that the reasons I feel so unhappy and frustrated is that I'm no longer using my natural strengths to their best advantage. It makes sense to me that if people are most effective when they're working within the areas of their greatest strength, than the opposite would also be true- that we are not only less productive, but less satisfied when we our work entails utilizing our weaker traits.
Now here's where my inner Puritan pipes up. "It's work, you ninny," the black-robed figure scolds, "it's not supposed to be fun or satisfying. It's supposed to be hard!"
But the Gallup people have a different take on the subject. Don't we owe it to our employers to give them our best selves? And doesn't it behoove companies to encourage employees to discover their strengths and help them find ways to use them in their employment positions, to make them more effective and productive? Shouldn't that be a win-win for everyone?
Hmm.. it should, I think.
So in the days ahead I'll be delving a little deeper into this idea of strength based leadership, trying to determine just what my strengths (in this context) might be. Perhaps I can find ways to use them in this new world I'm working in. And perhaps in the process, I'll gain a better understanding of myself as a person.
I'll keep you posted.
To find out more about strength based leadership, and the StrengthFinder assessment, visit the Gallup Strength-Finder website here.