LEAD­ER­SHIP IN­SIGHTS

Scott West is a mi­dlevel sales ex­ec­u­tive at a For­tune 500 com­pany. Af­ter nine years there, he was thriv­ing – his num­bers hit the roof, he was

The HR Digest - - Content Features -

What Skills Will Magnify Your Strengths?

well-ad­mired, and he got con­sis­tently rave re­views. He ap­plied for a pro­mo­tion that would put in charge of a global prod­uct-align­ment as­sign­ment, a per­fect fit for his com­bi­na­tion of skills and am­bi­tions. He had a solid track record, he had made no ca­reer-lim­it­ing moves, and never had any kind of run-ins with the up­per man­age­ment. De­spite, a col­league with less ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise on the mat­ter got the job. What went wrong?

As far as Scott could tell, noth­ing. His man­ager was happy with his work, and a re­cent per­for­mance re­view con­firmed it. It seemed de­liv­er­ing strong re­sults wasn’t the norm. The em­pha­sis was on prob­lem solv­ing, strate­gic think­ing, and in­spir­ing team mem­bers to thrive.

Scott had lost that one op­por­tu­nity. So, how could he think more strate­gi­cally? How could he be­come more in­spir­ing? What about prob­lem solv­ing?

Some­times, it’s pretty easy to im­prove on one’s weak­ness; through lin­ear de­vel­op­ment, one can de­velop strength over no time. This is par­tic­u­larly fa­mil­iar to ath­letes. A novice, for ex­am­ple, will ben­e­fit from run­ning a few times a week, grad­u­ally in­creas­ing en­durance and mus­cle

mem­ory. An ex­pe­ri­enced run­ner, on the other hand, won’t get faster merely by run­ning longer dis­tances. In or­der to reach to the next level, he’ll need to build up com­ple­men­tary skills through swim­ming, yoga, weight train­ing, and more.

The same is with lead­er­ship com­pe­ten­cies. In or­der to

get to the next level, one needs to delve deeper to hone com­ple­men­tary skills such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­ter­per­sonal skills, and be more ac­ces­si­ble to the co­work­ers.

In or­der to be a more ef­fec­tive leader, one needs to iden­tify the strengths, de­cide on which one to fo­cus on and which com­ple­men­tary skill to de­velop. The process is pretty sim­ple. Lead­er­ship com­pe­ten­cies cor­re­late with pos­i­tive busi­ness out­comes such as em­ployee en­gage­ment, rev­enue, prof­itabil­ity and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. What you need to do is fig­ure out which pairs would pro­duce am­pli­fied re­sults.

In a Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view sur­vey of over 30,000 lead­ers, it was found that some pair­ings re­port­edly re­sulted into higher scores on the over­all lead­er­ship ef­fec­tive­ness. For ex­am­ple, build­ing re­la­tion­ships and fo­cus­ing on re­sults are two rea­son­ably strong skills. How­ever, only 14 per­cent of lead­ers were able to reach the ex­tra­or­di­nary level of lead­er­ship by hon­ing one. While lead­ers per­formed well in both the cat­e­gories, only 72 per­cent of lead­ers ex­celled in over­all lead­er­ship ef­fec­tive­ness.

There is a stronger de­gree of cor­re­la­tion be­tween the over­all lead­er­ship ef­fec­tive­ness and the pos­si­ble pair­ings of all lead­er­ship com­pe­ten­cies. HBR dis­cov­ered that each of the 16 pairs of as­so­ci­ated be­hav­ior were highly cor­re­lated with the lead­er­ship skills. So, what skill will magnify your strength?

For in­stance, the main com­pe­ten­cies are hon­esty and in­tegrity. How would you im­prove a rel­a­tive strength in this area? If a leader were par­tic­u­larly weak in ‘hon­esty,’ he or she would need var­i­ous ways to im­prove: Be­have

con­sis­tently, avoid say­ing cer­tain things, and so on. How­ever, a leader with high in­tegrity is more likely to be do­ing these things.

HBR’S com­pe­tency-com­pan­ion re­search sug­gests that as­sertive­ness when paired with hon­esty and in­tegrity cor­re­lates most strongly lead­ing to higher lead­er­ship ef­fec­tive­ness.

This doesn’t mean that as­sertive­ness doesn’t make some­one hon­est, and that in­tegrity doesn’t lead to as­sertive­ness.

To build skills, the tech­nique is pretty much straight­for­ward:

Iden­tify the strengths Choose a strength to fo­cus on Pick a com­ple­men­tary skill set to

en­hance De­velop it in a lin­ear fash­ion.

Fo­cus­ing on one’s strength is an in­no­va­tive ap­proach. Peter Drucker in The Ef­fec­tive Ex­ec­u­tive, wrote, “Un­less…an ex­ec­u­tive looks for strength and works at mak­ing strength pro­duc­tive, he will only get the im­pact of what a man can­not do, of his lacks, his weak­nesses, his im­ped­i­ments to per­for­mance and ef­fec­tive­ness. To staff from what there is not and to fo­cus on weak­ness is waste­ful—a mis­use, if not abuse, of the hu­man re­source.”

Re­search shows how big a dif­fer­ence hon­ing one’s skills can make. What’s dis­tress­ing is that less than 15 per­cent of ex­ec­u­tives ac­tu­ally work on hon­ing the skills. Per­haps, the prob­lem lies in ex­e­cu­tion. Lead­ers need more than a path to en­hance their strengths and fix their weak­nesses. The best ap­proach to it is by al­low­ing peo­ple to use the lin­ear ap­proach they are more com­fort­able with.

Lead­ers of­ten com­plain that they’re not bet­ter than their peers in the or­ga­ni­za­tions. The real chal­lenge, how­ever, is not to re­place these lead­ers with good ones, but to turn them into ca­pa­ble lead­ers, and help them de­velop out­stand­ing strengths.

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