Identifying your leadership strengths – an exercise

Whilst working with a newly promoted leader last week he was wondering what type of leader he ‘should’ be. He’d clearly got a solid idea about what leadership is and what ‘good’ looks like, but he wasn’t clear about his own style and where to leverage his strengths.

In truth, he’d got himself into a bit of a muddle and was second guessing himself. The result was that he didn’t feel he was being authentic and was in turn questioning his ability.

Between us, we designed an exercise to help him get things straight in his head – to free him up to become the leader he is capable of being.

A simple exercise to identify your leadership strengths

First, I asked him to think of a handful of leaders he respected and to jot down the leadership traits he admired and why these made him feel they were good examples.

I then asked him to group the traits to identify common leadership themes.

For my client, there were four themes that emerged:

  • clarity of communication
  • confidence
  • fairness
  • warmth

This list makes it very clear what this particular leader respects in others.

The next step was to explore my client’s own leadership strengths.

Together, we looked at his ‘respected leaders’ list and discussed where there was a match and where there were different leadership traits from his own.

We explored this in some detail.

  • Which of the leadership traits he admired did he have already?
  • Which were missing – was that an issue?
  • Which of his own strengths could also be of value to him – after all it’s easier to use what you have than develop new skills.

Notice anything about this exercise? We didn’t assess any perceived negative traits. There was no need.

The take out from this is not that this talented young man was able to start developing a leadership style (although he did) it was that he took the time to explore his own abilities relative to people he considered to be exemplars.

We took time to build a model, to reflect and to recognise that leadership is something to be developed and worked at. It’s not a natural state – it’s a muscle that can be devloped.

Why not try this one yourself?



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If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues.