Do you want to achieve more success? Or do you want to improve your leadership abilities?
Its a nuanced, and important question.
When we want to advance our career, our first instinct is to focus on achievement, accomplishing certain milestones like pulling off the big deal, launching the new product, or finishing a high profile project.
Personal achievement is important. But it will only take you so far. Heres what I observe, people who focus on personal achievement rarely make it past mid-level. If they do rise higher, their reigns are often rocky, plagued by hit or miss results and they have trouble retaining top talent. In short a leader without good leadership skills is average at best.
Personal accomplishment simply doesnt scale in business, or any other organization. A more effective way to build a strong sustainable career is to develop your leadership skills.
Unfortunately, many organizations dont teach leadership skills until people are already in high-stakes leadership roles, and some organizations dont teach leadership skills at all. Instead, they focus exclusively on job duties.
Great companies teach leaderships skills early and often. For great companies, and great leaders, leadership development is not a check the box, you attended the seminar, congrats youre done, line item. Its an ongoing process of developing and refining your mindsets, strategy and behavior.
If you dont work for an organization that doesnt invest in leadership development, dont let that stop you from developing yourself.
The challenge is that there are so many good models to choose from.
I recommend the first step is to focus on who you already are. Youre better off working to further improve your strengths, rather than trying to fix your weaknesses. Strengths-based leadership scholars, Robert Kaiser and Darren Overfield say, The deficiency model is inefficient and ineffective because fixing weaknesses might get a manager to improve from poor to average but will never make that manager outstanding because the only way to achieve greatness is to maximize one’s innate gifts. For example, if youre a raging extrovert (like me), youre better off improving your already strong ability to connect with people. If youre an introvert like my husband, work on your ability to think strategically and listen to several points of view.
There are some easy ways to get clarity on your strengths.
First, do your Myers-Briggs. While arbitrary letters and personality types may seem a bit hokey, your Myers-Briggs can tell you a lot about how you look at the world, take in information, make decisions, and react to structure. Its not full-proof, no personality test is. But reading a description about people like you is incredibly self-validating. It gives you insights about yourself that you may not have realized.
Reflect on what people say about you. Do you hear You are always so calm under pressure or You really know how to inspire a room. Theyre both great compliments, but they lend themselves to different leadership styles.
Pay attention to your own mood. How do you feel when someone says, Its time to sit down and really focus on a long-term financial plan versus Lets start a new initiative to increase morale. Whichever one of those makes you more excited is where you need to be spending your time.
Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0, notes Once you know what specific strengths you bring to the table, you can then start working on honing those strengths and enhancing them even further.
Instead of thinking about what you want to accomplish, think about who you want to be, and leverage the areas where youre already strong.
You can spend your whole life shoring up your weaknesses and youll die a perfectly average person
But you werent sent to this earth to fixate on your flaws. You were sent here to be magnificent.