Working with many different leaders in all types of industries, I have learned so much about what drives an individual’s choices and actions. Some people lead with their ability to visualize a big picture while others make decisions based on how it might impact their teams and organizations. Some leaders are very deliberate and others thrive on spontaneity.
Different situations may call for different styles, yet we each tend to replay our unique approach no matter the challenge. But is that really a bad thing to lead with what feels natural to us and what makes the most sense to our brains and hearts? I would say, no, because what we are really doing is using our individual talents and gifts in our leadership journey.
During a leadership and team building training for a small manufacturing company, I worked with the president of the organization, on how to create a more open and accountable culture. She was very direct in how she communicated and did not seem to have a soft side to her words. I wondered how her colleagues and diverse team members perceived her. She explained to me: “We have lots of backgrounds represented here, three different languages communicating with one another, all striving towards the same technical requirements.”
I was nervous on just how I was going to present and train to the program participants who spoke different languages. As we began our first session, my anxiety melted as I watched the president interact with her team. She was extraordinary! Although she didn’t speak all the languages in that room fluently, she conversed with everyone in a meaningful way. As she spoke, team members who understood her words, jumped in to share her thoughts, almost as interpreters. Her communication flowed seamlessly as I saw her gift in her ability to connect and engage with people with different languages and backgrounds. That gift empowered her to be a strong leader and fierce competitor in her industry. She put me at ease as she did everyone else in that room. I loved working with these employees and this talented leader. And I did so for many years.
Here are a few strategies that can begin your talent search:
Ask yourself what am I good at? We don’t take the time to look at ourselves earnestly, and reflect on what we excel in. Are we big picture thinkers? When we prefer to visualize the larger scope of a problem as opposed to the details, we should lead with that perspective. Then we should partner with other leaders who might be more talented in filling in with the specifics. That’s what their strength may be.
Ask others what they think you are good at: Feedback can be so helpful in finding out what other people value most about our leadership style. Pose this question in a positive and truthful way so that those around us feel they are contributing to helping us find our gifts. Ask them: “When we work together, what do you like most about how we interact? What do you perceive to be my strongest contributions?” Then sit back and listen.
Explore what excites you: It really makes good leadership sense to pursue what interests us and what we are passionate about. Dig deeper by reading more about a topic that thrills you. Talk to people in that field who seem to have incorporated that gift into their everyday life. How did they do it? How do they use this interest in both their personal and professional lives?
Now it’s your turn. How have you discovered your talents and gifts? How have you leveraged them?