How to lead and manage using your unique strengths

by Bob Colclough on June 18, 2012

Leadership and management


A lot is spoken about leadership and management.

We can all recognise a good leader or manager when we meet one.

If you’ve been in business for a number of years think back to the individuals who have had the most influence over you. For most people. it’s often an inspiring manager, leader or coach, who has had most impact on us.

But how do we gain the skills for ourselves and where do we start?  Do you even have the necessary raw skills?

Strengths based skills assessment

if you haven’t encountered skills-based management and assessment in the past it’s worth taking a look. It provides a more uplifting, exciting motivational approach to management and leadership than many other systems which companies have historically followed.

Frequently organisations concentrate on a whole list of different skills which people need in their roles. When working with one of their team, a manager will then methodically tick off those that you are sufficiently good at and then concentrating on the “weak” areas.

Strength based skills assessment works from the other end. It looks at what people are good at and encourages them to build those skills.

So what are the important skills that managers should consider?

Extensive research has been carried out by Jack Zenger and his team and is described in his book: “The Extraordinary Leader”.

The research shows that there are some 16 core skills and outstanding managers usually excel in just a few.  The only proviso is that any leader or manager needs to avoid being absolutely awful at a critical few of these key skills.

The important skills


  • Character
  • Doing what you say, saying what you’ll do
  • Consistent
  • Lead by example
Personal Capability
  • Personal Capability
  • Use technical knowledge to help others
  • Have credibility because of their knowledge
  • Have strong judgement
  • Use past experience
  • Innovative
Focus on Results
  • Focus on Results
  • Single minded pursuit of goals
  • High standards of performance
  • A spirit of continuous improvement
  • Take personal responsibility
Interpersonal Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Skilful communicators
  • Show to others how they contribute
  • Energise colleagues
  • Trusted
  • Spirit of co-operation
Leading change in the organisation
  • Leads change in the organisation
  • Knows where their team fits into the overall company plan
  • Translates organisation vision
  • Takes the long view
  • Champions change
  • Focuses on the outside world

You can see a full list of the 16 skill areas distilled by Zenger’s research at the end of this article.

Your Action Plan

Leadership is often most effective when it is driven from within is based on your own in view of your strengths and how you can contribute successfully.

It is usually much less successful if a third person dictates the areas in which you should concentrate.

As a leader or manager, in order to build on your strengths and you need to know where they lie. Effective leaders know what they’re good at and what the not so good at. An ineffective leader is in blissful ignorance of his strengths.

By knowing your strengths, you can then start to hone the strengths, which you have in abundance, whilst keeping an eye on the areas of lower strength.

The research shows in particular:

1. Leadership is a complex concept. Different leaders excel in different areas.

2. All people can realistically develop their own leadership and management skills given focus and effort.

3. You need to excel at something! And preferably two or three of the skill areas listed later in this article. Concentrate on these.

4. Avoid being truly disastrous at some critical skill areas. These include:

  • An inability to learn from mistakes.
  • Lack of core interpersonal skills and competencies
  • Lack of openness to new or different ideas
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of initiative.

Discovering your strengths

There are broadly three ways in which you can get a grip on where your strengths lie.

First, you can try some self-analysis and just reflect on past experiences and where you have been successful or not so successful. This might take you a long way but unfortunately human nature means that you will probably not be as honest or a self-aware as you would like to be.

You can also ask colleagues or friends, providing there is an atmosphere of trust between you. This can be an excellent way forward, although sometimes a little painful!

Finally and perhaps the best option, you can carry out a self-assessment questionnaire created with the specific purpose of identifying your strengths.

Fortunately, there are many accessible questionnaires that help identify your strengths. You may want to consider one entitled:”Strengthsfinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now Discover Your Strengths”. It is available from Amazon.

The full Skills List


1. Displaying high integrity and honesty

Personal capability

2. Technical and professional expertise

3. Solving problems and analyzing issues

4. Innovation

5. Practicing self-development

Focus on results

6. Focus on results

7. Establish stretch goals

8. Take responsibility for outcomes/initiative

Interpersonal skills

9. Communicating powerfully and prolifically

10. Inspiring and motivating others to high performance

11. Building relationships

12. Developing others

13. Collaboration and teamwork

Leading organizational change

14. Developing strategic perspectives

15. Championing change

16. Connect internal groups with the outside world

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter Mitchell September 25, 2009 at 8:47 am

Well explained. I have been training leaders in developing their emotional intelligence for the last few years. It is very rewarding as they practice their new skills in the workplace. All my leadership training courses involve follow up on the job coaching. They last six months-one day per month.

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