The Strength to Lead!

Traits that define a good leader are numerous.  Even the definition of leadership has been debated for decades.  Successful leaders have been described as people that show confidence, that have a positive attitude, that are good listeners and insist on excellence.  Good leaders realize that accountability and responsibility are essential to success and developing others is as important as developing yourself. Making decisions is one of the most important functions performed by leaders.  Many of the activities of managers and administrators involve making and implementing decisions, including planning the work, solving technical and operational problems and creating job assignments. 

Over the years and through my experience I have come to believe that at its core, true leadership is doing the right thing and making the right decision at the right time.  Earlier this year, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred at an Orlando nightclub.  During this catastrophic event, Chief Medical Examiner Joshua Stephany had been filling in as medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties in Florida for about a year, when he was faced with addressing the aftermath.  Dr. Stephany made the decision to separate the bodies of the 49 victims from the body of their executioner.  “There was no legal reason, no protocol” for separating the gunman, Stephany said in an interview.  “It’s just what I felt was right”. 

While everyone may not desire to take on a leadership role in an organization, it is now becoming more imperative that people within organizations be able to step up and adopt a more hands on approach to problem solving.  Twentyfirst century organizations need to be nimble and respond to challenges quickly and effectively to be successful.  In order to do so, they will need their team members to take on leadership roles to be responsive to the challenges presented. 

 In today’s work world, it is more important than ever to develop leaders within your organizations.  The increasing rate of change in the external environment of organizations and the many challenges facing leaders suggest that successful leaders will require a higher level of skill and some new competencies as well. As the need for leadership competencies increases, new techniques for developing them are being invented and old techniques are being refined.  A systems approach to leadership development will become more common as more organizations realized that this activity is strategically important for longterm organizational effectiveness. 

There has been extensive research on the effects of professional development training in organizations.  The research suggest that this usually increases job satisfaction and performance.   After decades of studying some of the most successful employees, leaders and enterprises in the world, Gallup Inc. has found that organizations achieve the highest levels of success by investing in their strongest asset – their people. 

Developing leaders in an organization offers a variety of potential benefits for the manager, the subordinate and the organization.  One benefit is to foster mutually cooperative relationships.  Potential benefits for subordinates include better job adjustment, more skill learning, greater self-confidence and faster career advancement.  The leader can gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others grow and develop.  Potential benefits for the organization include higher employee commitment, higher performance employees who are better prepared to fill positions of greater responsibility in the organization as openings occur. 

Successful organizations beyond the 21st century will be defined by how well they develop leaders within their ranks.  Employees need to collaborate across the organization to achieve organizational goals and objectives.  This often requires people to step into leadership positions to head teams and coordinate projects.  Developing leaders provides for successful succession planning, highly performing teams and successful project implementation. Organizations that develop internal leaders are better able to adapt and implement changes in the organization. 

When developing leaders, in any organization I have worked with, my successes and most effective outcomes have been when the focus is placed on employee’s strengths.  Using a strengths based approach to leadership development is the best way to instill confidence, develop leadership skills and to build a collaborative culture that supports emerging leaders in an organization. Many organizations are under using the strengths of their employees partially because they have not identified what strengths they have individually or collectively. Bringing these out in your team will be a tremendous benefit to the organization. 

Gallup’s research has shown that organizations that develop their teams around strengths see increases in employee engagement and results including 14.9% lower turnover and 12.5% greater productivity.  A strengths-based approach incorporates identifying the ways in which employees most naturally think, feel and behave and building on those talents to create strengths – the ability to consistently provide near perfect performance in a specific task. A strengths-based approach combines the requirements of the job and performance capabilities (or competencies) demanded by the organization with individuals’ strengths to optimize performance. 

Using a strengths-based approach to develop leaders in the organization is key to maximizing the potential for successful integration and the embodiment of a leadership culture.  It capitalizes on the positive outcomes that a strengths-based approach provides, such as, making progress, employees enjoying what they do and them having a high interest in their work.  By positioning employees in ways that allow them to use their strengths every day and integrating strengths into key processes and systems organizationwide will yield a multitude of benefits for the organization, including increased engagement and retention.  A strengths-based approach aligns an organizations’ policies and practices and anchors them in a common philosophy. 

As we talk about developing leaders, what it really comes down to is outcomes.  When the circumstances arise or as in the crisis in Orlando, will the people in your organization stand up in leadership roles to do the right thing and make a positive difference?  Will they use their strengths to act with confidence and resolve to advance the organization’s goals and vision?  When Dr. Stephany made the decision that he did he didn’t do it for notoriety; he didn’t do it because he had to; he did it because it was the right thing to do and he was truly serving the people that he was hired to serve.  Dr. Stephany used his strengths to lead with dignity and conviction.  

Larry Hammond, Sr. – Certified StrengthsFinder Coach and Principal with V1H Consulting.